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|iio       THE 










(in  Four  Volumes) 





IN  ROME          :&'•••»' 



BY   THE    VERY    REV. 


M.A.,  D.D. 






First  Published    . 
Second  Edition 

October  2fth 

JUL  3 1 





OF  the  five  Books  which  make  up  this  work,  the  First 
Book  relates  generally  the  history  of  the  fortunes  of 
the  Church  in  Rome  in  the  first  days. 

The  foundation  stories  of  the  Roman  congregations  were 
laid  largely  by  the  Apostles  Peter  and  Paul — Peter,  so  with 
one  accord  say  the  earliest  contemporary  writers,1  being  the 
first  apostle  who  preached  in  Rome.  Paul,  who  taught  many 
years  later  in  the  Capital,  was  also  reckoned  as  a  founder 
of  the  Roman  Church  ;  for  his  teaching,  especially  his  Christ- 
ology,  supplemented  and  explained  in  detail  the  teaching  of 
S.  Peter  and  the  early  founders. 

The  First  Book  relates  how,  after  the  great  fire  of  Rome 
in  the  days  of  Nero,  the  Christians  came  into  prominence,  but 
apparently  were  looked  on  for  a  considerable  period  as  a 
sect  of  dissenting  Jews. 

From  A.D.  64  and  onwards  they  were  evidently  regarded 
as  enemies  of  the  State,  and  were  perpetually  harassed  and 
persecuted.  No  real  period  of  "  quietness  "  was  again  enjoyed 
by  them  until  the  famous  edict  of  Constantine  the  Great, 
A.D.  313,  had  been  issued.  Although,  through  the  favour  of 
the  reigning  Emperor,  a  temporary  suspension  of  the 
stern  law  of  the  State,  sometimes  lasting  for  several  years, 
left  the  Christian  sect  for  a  time,  comparatively  speaking, 
at  peace. 

The  Persecutions,  which  began  in  the  days  of  Nero,  with 
varying  severity  continued  all  through  the  reigns  of  the 
Flavians  (Vespasian,  Titus,  Domitian). 

1  These  are  quoted  on  pp.  13-20  of  Book  I. 


Nerva,  who  succeeded  Domitian,  only  reigned  two  years, 
and  was  followed  by  the  great  Trajan  :  still  the  persecution 
of  the  sect  continued.  This  we  learn  from  Pliny's  letter  to 
Trajan,  circa  A.D.  111-113.  Hadrian,  who  followed  Trajan, 
virtually  pursued  the  same  policy. 

In  the  latter  years  of  Hadrian,  from  A.D.  134-5,  tne  result 
of  the  great  Jewish  rebellion  definitely  and  for  ever  separated, 
in  the  eyes  of  the  government,  the  Christian  from  the  Jew. 
Henceforth  the  Jew  generally  pursued  his  quiet  way,  and 
found  new  ideals,  new  hopes.  The  State  feared  the  Jew  no 

Not  so  the  Christian.  Rome  saw  clearly  now  that  a  new 
and  influential  sect  had  arisen  in  their  midst ;  a  sect  absolutely 
opposed  to  the  old  Roman  sacred  traditions  and  worship,  a 
sect,  too,  that  evidently  possessed  some  mighty  secret  power 
which  enabled  the  Christians  fearlessly  to  defy  the  magistracy 
of  the  Empire.  This  partly  accounts  for  the  greater  severity 
of  the  persecution  under  the  Antonine  Emperors. 

The  policy  of  the  Antonines  (Pius  and  Marcus),  which 
endeavoured  to  restore  and  to  give  fresh  life  to  the  old  Roman 
traditions  and  worship,  which  they  looked  upon  as  indissolubly 
bound  up  with  the  greatness  and  power  of  Rome,  was  absolutely 
hostile  to  the  spirit  of  Christian  thought  and  teaching. 

The  First  Book  brings  the  history  down  to  A.D.  180,  the  date 
of  the  death  of  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus. 

The  "  Inner  Life  "  of  the  Christian  congregations  is  now 
dwelt  on,  and  forms  the  subject-matter  of  Books  II., 
III.,  IV. 

The  subject-matter  of  the  Second  Book  is  the  everyday  life 
of  the  Christian  in  the  first,  second,  and  third  centuries,  during 
which  period  the  religion  of  Jesus  of  Nazareth  was  in  the  eyes 
of  the  Roman  government  an  unlawful  cult,  and  its  adherents 
were  ever  liable  to  the  severest  punishment,  such  as  confisca 
tion  of  their  goods,  rigorous  imprisonment,  torture,  and  even 


After  dwelling  on  the  question  of  the  numbers  of  Chris 
tians  in  very  early  times,  their  public  assemblies  or  meetings 
together  are  described  with  considerable  detail  in  Book  II. 
The  importance  of  these  "  meetings  "  in  early  Christian  life  is 
dwelt  upon.  What  took  place  at  these  gatherings  is  commented 
upon  at  considerable  length.  The  position  occupied  by  the 
slave  at  these  "  meetings,"  and  in  Christian  society  generally, 
is  examined  briefly. 

Some  of  the  various  difficulties  which  Christians  in  the  age 
of  persecution  had  to  face,  and  the  way  by  which  these  diffi 
culties  were  combated,  are  described. 

Instruction  as  to  the  way  of  meeting  the  difficulty  of  life 
for  a  Christian  living  in  pagan  Rome,  was  given  by  two 
different  schools  of  thought.  A  sketch  is  given  of  (i)  "  Rigour- 
ists,"  and  (2)  of  the  "  gentler  and  more  practical  "  schools 
which  strove  to  accommodate  the  Christian  life  with  the  life 
of  the  ordinary  Roman  citizen. 

The  important  part  played  by  the  "  Rigourist  "  or  ascetic 
school  in  the  ultimate  conversion  of  the  Roman  World  to 
Christianity  is  examined. 

Finally,  some  of  the  inducements  are  indicated  which  per 
suaded  the  Christian  of  the  first  three  centuries  to  endure 
with  brave  patience  the  hard  and  dangerous  life  which  was 
ever  the  earthly  lot  of  the  followers  of  Jesus. 

The  Third  Book  treats  especially  of  the  hard  and  painful 
nature  of  the  "  life  "  which,  from  A.D.  64,  was  the  lot  of  the 
Christian  in  the  Roman  Empire.  For  the  members  of  the 
community  ever  lived  under  the  dark  shadow  of  persecution. 
The  severity  of  the  persecution  varied  from  time  to  time,  but 
the  dark  shadow  lay  on  them,  and  constantly  brooded  over  all 
their  works  and  days.  We  possess  no  direct  detailed  history 
of  this  state  of  things,  but  all  the  early  contemporary  writings 
of  Christians,  a  good  many  of  which,  whole  or  in  fragments, 
have  come  down  to  us,  are  literally  honeycombed  with  notices 
bearing  on  this  perpetual  apprehension  ;  and  indeed  so  real,  so 


constant  was  the  danger,  and  so  grave  were  the  consequences 
to  Christianity  of  any  flinching  in  the  hour  of  trial,  that  among 
the  congregations  of  the  first  days,  numerous  schools  existed 
for  the  purpose  of  training  men  and  women  to  endure  the 
sufferings  of  martyrdom. 

The  number  of  martyrs  in  these  early  years  has  been 
probably  understated.  Pagan  contemporary  writers  of  the 
highest  authority,  casually,  but  still  definitely,  allude  to  the 
great  numbers  of  victims,  while  the  tone  of  early  Christian 
writings  (already  referred  to)  is  deeply  coloured  with  the 
pathetic  memories  of  these  blood-stained  days. 

Besides  the  references  even  of  eminent  pagan  authorities 
and  the  perpetual  allusions  in  early  Christian  writings  to 
the  great  numbers  of  Martyrs  and  Confessors,  a  somewhat 
novel  testimony  to  the  vast  number  of  martyrs  is  quoted 
here  at  some  length  from  the  history  of  the  Catacombs,  where 
the  numbers  of  these  Confessors  are  again  and  again  dwelt  on 
in  the  "  handbooks  "  to  the  Roman  subterranean  cemeteries, 
compiled  in  the  fifth  and  following  centuries  as  "  guides  " 
for  the  crowds  of  pilgrims  from  foreign  lands  visiting  Rome. 
These  "  Pilgrim-guides,"  several  of  which  have  in  later  years 
come  to  light,  have  been  recently  made  the  subject  of  careful 

The  Fourth  Book  is  devoted  exclusively  to  the  story  of 
the  Roman  Catacombs.  In  the  course  of  the  second  half  of 
the  nineteenth  century,  the  vast  subterranean  City  of  the 
Dead,  known  as  the  Roman  Catacombs,  has  been  in  parts 
patiently  excavated,  and  carefully  studied  by  eminent  scholars. 
This  study,  which  is  still  being  actively  pursued,  has  thrown 
much  light  upon  the  "  life  "  lived  among  the  early  generations 
of  Christians.  The  inscriptions  and  epitaphs  graved  and 
painted,  the  various  symbols  carved  upon  the  countless 
tombs  in  the  Catacombs,  have  told  us  very  much  of  the 
relations  between  the  rich  and  the  poor.  They  have  disclosed 
to  us  something  of  the  secret  of  the  intense  faith  of  these  early 


believers  on  the  "  Name,"  and  have  shown  us  what  was  the 
sure  and  certain  hope  which  inspired  their  wonderful  endurance 
of  pain  and  agony,  and  their  marvellous  courage  in  the  hour 
of  trial. 

All  this  and  much  more  the  inscriptions  on  the  thousand 
thousand  graves,  the  dim  fading  pictures,  the  rough  carvings, 
speak  of  in  a  language  none  can  mistake.  It  is,  indeed,  a 
voice  from  the  dead,  bearing  its  strange,  weird  testimony 
which  none  can  gainsay  or  doubt. 

The  work  of  excavation  and  the  patient  study  of  these 
Catacombs  are  yet  slowly  proceeding,  but  from  what  has  been 
already  discovered  we  have  learned  much  of  the  "  Inner  Life  " 
of  this  early  Christian  folk. 

The  history  of  these  wonderful  Catacombs,  this  subterranean 
city  of  the  dead  beneath  the  suburbs  of  ancient  Rome,  is  told 
at  some  length  and  with  considerable  detail  in  the  Fourth 

The  Fifth  Book  may  be  considered  as  a  supplement  to  the 
work,  which  in  the  first  four  Books  has  dwelt  on  (i)  the  very 
early  history,  and  (2)  on  the  "  Inner  Life  "  of  the  Christian 
Church  in  the  first  three  centuries,  especially  in  Rome. 

Christianity  sprang  from  the  heart  of  the  Chosen  People, 
the  Jews.  The  Divine  Founder  in  His  earthly  life  was  pleased 
to  be  a  Son  of  the  Chosen  People,  and  His  disciples,  who  laid 
the  early  stories  of  the  Faith,  were  all  Jews,  as  were  the 
earliest  converts  to  the  religion  of  Jesus. 

The  history  of  the  Jews — their  past  and  present  condition- 
is  indissolubly  bound  up  with  the  records  of  Christianity. 
It  constitutes  the  most  important  confirmation  which  we 
possess  of  the  truth  of  early  Christian  history.  It  is  the 
weightiest  of  all  evidential  arguments  here,  and  it  cannot  be 
refuted  or  disproved. 

The  general  account  of  the  Chosen  People  before  the 
coming  of  Messiah  is  well  known,  and  the  historical  accuracy 
of  the  Old  Testament  records  is  generally  admitted.  But  the 


memories  of  the  fortunes  of  the  Jewish  race  after  A.D.  70,  when 
the  Temple  and  City  were  destroyed,  and  when  the  heart  of 
Judaism,  as  it  were,  ceased  to  beat,  are  comparatively  little 

The  Fifth  Book  tells  something  of  that  eventful  history. 
It  sketches  first,  very  briefly,  the  last  fatal  wars  of  the  Jews. 
Then  it  tells  how  directly  after  the  Temple  was  burnt  a 
remarkable  group  of  Rabbis  arose,  who,  undismayed  by  what 
seemed  the  hopeless  ruin  of  their  race,  at  once  proceeded  to 
the  reconstruction  of  Judaism  upon  totally  new  foundation 

These  strange  and  wonderful  scholars  gathered  together 
a  mass  of  memories,  traditions,  and  precepts  which  from  the 
days  of  Moses  had  gradually  been  grouped  round  the  sacred 
Torah, — the  Law  of  the  Lord, — and  which  had  formed  the 
subject-matter  of  the  teaching  of  the  Rabbinic  schools  of  the 
Holy  Law  during  the  five  centuries  which  had  elapsed  since 
the  Return  from  the  Captivity. 

All  these  memories  —  traditions  —  comments,  the  great 
scholar  Rabbis  and  their  disciples  arranged,  codified,  ampli 
fied.  This  work  went  on  for  some  three  hundred  years 
or  more ;  their  labours  resulted  in  the  production  of  the 

The  great  object  of  this  marvellous  book,  or  rather  col 
lection  of  books,  the  Talmud,  was  the  glorification  of  Israel  ; 
but  no  longer  as  a  separate,  a  distinct  nation,  but  what  was 
far  greater,  as  a  separate  People,  a  People  specially  beloved 
of  God,  for  whom  a  glorious  destiny  was  reserved  in  a  remote 
future,  a  destiny  which  only  belonged  to  the  Jews. 

In  the  several  sections  of  this  Fifth  Book  the  Talmud  is 
described  : — the  materials  out  of  which  it  was  composed,  the 
method  of  the  composition,  the  marvellous  power  which  it 
exercised  upon  the  sad  Remnant  of  the  Jewish  people,  how 
it  bound  them,  exiles  though  they  were  in  many  lands,  and 
kept  them  together, — all  this  is  told  at  some  length. 

PREFACE  xiii 

The  ten  or  twelve  millions  of  Jews,  scattered  through 
many  hostile  nations,  living  in  the  world  of  to-day,  more 
powerful,  more  influential  by  far  than  they  were  in  the  golden 
age  of  David  and  Solomon,  linked  together  by  a  bond  which 
has  never  snapped,  are  indeed  an  ever-present  evidence  of 
the  truth  of  the  story  of  the  early  Christians  dwelt  on  in  the 
first  four  Books  of  this  work. 






A  sketch  of  the  early  Jewish  colony  in  Rome  —  Allusion  to  Jews 
by  Cicero  —  Favour  shown  them  by  Julius  Caesar  —  Mention 
of  Jews  by  the  great  poets  of  the  Augustine  age  —  Character 
istic  features  and  moral  power  of  Jews  —  Their  numbers  in 
the  days  of  Nero  ...  .3 


S.    PETER 

Into  this  colony  of  Jews  came  the  news  of  the  story  of  Jesus  Christ 
—  Was  S.  Peter  among  the  first  preachers  of  Christianity 
in  Rome  ?  —  Quotations  from  early  Christian  writers  on 
this  subject  —  Traditional  memories  of  S.  Peter  in  Rome  .  7 



Quotations  from  patristic  writers  of  the  first  three  centuries, 
bearing  on  the  foundation  of  the  Church  in  Rome,  including 
the  oldest  Catalogues  of  the  Bishops  of  Rome—  Deduction 
from  these  quotations  .  .  .  .  .  -13 




S.  Paul  in  Rome  —  His  share  in  laying  the  foundation  stories 
in  the  Capital  —  Paul's  Christology  more  detailed  than  that 
contained  in  S.  Mark's  Gospel,  which  represents  S.  Peter's 
teaching  .  .  .  .  .  .  .21 




The  great  fire  of  Rome  in  the  days  of  Nero  brought  the  unnoticed 
sect  of  Christians  into  prominence — The  games  of  Nero — 
Never  again  after  A.D.  64  did  Christians  enjoy  "  stillness  " 
—The  policy  of  the  State  towards  them  from  this  time 
was  practically  unaltered  .  .  .  .  .2 



Silence  respecting  details  of  persecutions  in  pagan  and  in  Chris 
tian  writings — Reason  for  this — These  writings  contain  little 
history  ;  but  the  Christian  writings  are  coloured  with  the  daily 
expectation  of  death  and  suffering — In  spite  of  persecution 
the  numbers  of  Christians  increased  rapidly — What  was  the 
strange  attraction  of  Christianity  ? — Persecution  of  the  sect 
under  the  Flavian  Emperors  Vespasian,  Titus,  Domitian  .  31 


The  correspondence  between  Trajan   and   Pliny,   and   the  Im 
perial    Rescript — Genuineness    of    this    piece    in    Pliny's 
Letters  .....  45 



Nerva — Character  of  Trajan — Story  of  correspondence-  here 
referred  to — Pliny's  Letters — Reply  of  Trajan,  which  con 
tained  the  famous  Rescript — Tertullian's  criticism  of  Re 
script — Pliny's  Letters — They  were  no  ordinary  letters,  but 
were  intended  for  public  reading — Pliny's  character — The 
vogue  of  writing  letters  as  li terary  pieces  for  public  reading — 
Pliny's  Letters  briefly  examined  —  The  letter  here  under 
special  consideration  —  Its  great  importance  in  early 
Christian  history  .  .  .  .  .  4! 



Letters  of  public  men  considered  as  pieces  of  literature — After 
Trajan  there  were  very  few  Latin  writings  until  the  close 
of  the  fourth  century  —  In  that  period  some  celebrated 
letters  again  appear  (written  by  Symmachus  and  by  Sidonius 
Apollinaris  a  few  years  later)— These  letters  were  evidently 
written  as  pieces  of  li terature  intended  for  public  circulation  .  6 





Adoption  of  favourite  letter-form  as  literary  pieces — in  Epistles 

of  the  New  Testament,  and  in  letters  of  Apostolic  Fathers   .       69 



Hadrian — His  life  of  travel  —  His  character — Early  policy 
towards  Christians — He  insults  Christianity  in  his  building 
of  Aelia  Capitolina  on  site  of  Jerusalem — The  great  Jewish 
war — Its  two  results — (a)  Complete  change  in  the  spirit  of 
the  Jews — (6)  A  new  conception  of  the  Christian  sect  on 
part  of  Roman  Government — It  was  now  recognized  that 
the  Christian  was  no  mere  Jewish  dissenter,  but  a  member 
of  a  distinct  sect,  dangerous  to  Roman  policy  .  .  •  7S 



Last  years  of  Hadrian — Persecution  of  Christians  more  pro 
nounced — Undoubted  authorities  for  this  graver  position  of 
Christians  throughout  the  Empire — Table  showing  succes 
sion  of  Antonines  to  the  Empire  .  .  .  .81 



Character  of  Antoninus  Pius — His  intense  love  for  Rome — His 
determination  to  restore  the  old  simple  life  to  which  Rome 
owed  her  greatness — His  devotion  to  ancient  Roman  tradi 
tions,  and  to  the  old  Roman  religion — Antoninus  Pius  and 
his  successor  Marcus  lived  themselves  the  simple  austere  life 
they  taught  to  their  court  and  subjects  .  .  .84 



Reason  of  the  Antonines'  marked  hostility  to  the  Christian  sect 
— The  Christians  stood  resolutely  aloof  from  the  ancient 
religion  which  these  two  great  sovereigns  believed  was  indis- 
solubly  bound  up  with  the  greatness  of  Rome — With  such 
views  of  the  sources  of  Roman  power  and  prosperity,  only 
a  stern  policy  of  persecution  was  possible — This  policy, 
pursued  in  days  of  Pius,  was  intensified  by  his  yet  greater 
successor  Marcus— The  common  idea  that  the  Christians  were 

xviii          THE  EARLY  CHRISTIANS  IN  ROME 


tolerated  in  the  days  of  the  Antonines  must  be  abandoned 
— Their  sufferings  under  the  rule  of  these  great  Emperors, 
especially  in  the  days  of  Marcus,  can  scarcely  be  exaggerated  9 1 





Certain  reasons  to  which  the  rapid  acceptance  of  Christianity  was 
owing — The  great  numbers  of  the  early  converts  is  borne 
witness  to  by  pagan  authors,  such  as  Tacitus  and  Pliny,  and 
by  Christian  contemporary  writers  such  as  Clement  of  Rome, 
Hermas,  Irenaeus,  and  others — The  testimony  of  the  Roman 
catacombs  described  in  detail  in  Fourth  Book  is  also  re 
ferred  to  .......  102 



These  "  assemblies "  constituted  a  powerful  factor  in  the 
acceptance  and  organization  of  the  religion  of  Jesus — 
Their  high  importance  is  recognized  by  the  great  teachers  of 
the  first  days — Quotations  from  these  are  given  .  ,  107 



Information  respecting  these  early  meetings  of  Believers  is  sup 
plied  by  leading  Christian  teachers — Quotations  from  these 
are  given  .  .  .  .  .  .  .no 



A  general  picture  of  one  of  them  by  Justin  Martyr — (A )  Dogmatic 
teaching  given  in  these  meetings — (J5)  Almsgiving — Is  shown 
to  be  an  inescapable  duty — Is  pressed  home  by  early 
masters  of  Christianity  on  the  faithful — All  offerings  made 
were,  however,  purely  voluntary — No  communism  was  ever 


taught  or  hinted  at  in  the  early  Church — (C)  Special 
dogmatic  instruction  respecting  the  value  of  almsgiving  was 
given  by  some  early  teachers — Several  of  these  instructions 
are  given  here — (D)  Apart  from  this  somewhat  strange  dog 
matic  teaching  on  the  value  of  almsgiving,  the  general  duty 
of  almsgiving  was  most  strongly  impressed  on  the  faithful — 
Passages  emphasizing  this  from  very  early  writers  are  here 
quoted — (£)  Special  recipients  of  these  alms  are  particu 
larized  ;  amongst  these,  in  the  first  place,  widows  and 
orphans,  and  the  sick,  appear — (F)  These  alms  in  some 
cases  were  not  to  be  confined  to  the  Household  of  Faith — 
(G)  Hospitality  to  strangers  is  enjoined — References  here  are 
given  from  several  prominent  early  teachers  —  Help  to 
prisoners  for  the  Name's  sake  enjoined — Assistance  to  be 
given  to  poorer  Churches  is  recommended — (H)  Burial 
expenses  for  the  dead  among  the  poorer  brethren  are  to  be 
partly  defrayed  from  the  "  alms  "  contributed  at  the 
assemblies,  partly  from  private  sources — Lactantius,  in  his 
summary  of  Christian  duties,  dwells  markedly  on  this  duty — 
Important  witness  of  the  Roman  catacombs  here  .  - 



Position  in  Christian  society — How  the  slave  was  regarded  in 
the  "  assemblies  " — Paulinus  of  Nola  quoted  on  the  general 
Christian  estimate  of  a  slave — How  this  novel  view  of  the 
slave  was  looked  on  by  pagans  .  .  .  1 34 

A  general  summary  of  the  effect  which  all  this  teaching  current 
in  the  primitive  "  assemblies  "  had  on  the  policy  and  work 
of  the  Church  in  subsequent  ages  .  .  .  .137 



Difficulties  in  common  life  for  the  Christian  who  endeavoured  to 
cany  out  the  precepts  and  teaching  given  in  the  "  assem 
blies  "  are  sketched — In  family  life — In  trades — In  the 
amusements  of  the  people — In  civil  employments — In  the 
army — In  matters  of  education — A  general  summary  of 
such  difficulties  is  quoted  from  De  Broglie  (I'Eglise  et 
I' Empire)  .  .  .  .  .  .  .140 





Two  schools  of  teaching,  showing  how  these  difficulties  were  to 
be  met,  evidently  existed  in  the  early  Church — (A)  The 
school  of  Rigourists — Tertullian  is  a  good  example  of  a 
teacher  of  this  school — Effect  of  this  school  on  artisans — 
On  popular  amusements — On  soldiers  of  the  Legions — On 
slaves — On  family  life — From  this  stern  school  came  the 
majority  of  the  martyrs — (#)  The  gentler  and  more  practical 
school — exemplified  in  such  writings  as  the  Dialogue  of 
Minucius  Felix  and  in  writings  of  Clement  of  Alexandria, 
etc — Results  of  the  teaching  of  the  gentler  school — Art  was 
still  possible  among  Christians,  although  permeated  with 
heathen  symbols  —  The  Christian  might  still  continue  to 
live  in  the  Imperial  court — might  remain  in  the  civil 
service — in  the  army,  etc. — Examples  for  such  allowances 
found  in  Old  Testament  writings — (C)  The  Rigourist  school 
again  dwelt  on— Its  great  influence  on  the  pagan  empire — 
The  final  victory  of  Christianity  was  largely  owing  to  the 
popular  impression  of  the  life  and  conduct  of  followers  of 
this  school — This  impression  was  voiced  by  fourth  century 
writers  such  as  Prudentius  and  Paulinus  of  Nola,  and  is 
shown  in  the  work  of  Pope  Damasus  in  the  catacombs  .  .144 



(^4)  Freedom  from  ever-present  fear  of  death — S.  Paul, 
Ignatius,  and  especially  epitaphs  in  the  Roman  cata 
combs  are  referred  to  here — (J9)  New  terminology 
for  death,  burial,  etc.,  used — (C)  The  ever-present 
consciousness  of  forgiveness  of  sins — (D)  Hope  of 
immediate  bliss  after  death — The  power  of  the  revela 
tion  of  S.  John  in  early  Christian  life — (£)  Was 
Christian  life  in  the  early  centuries  after  all  a  dreary 
existence,  as  the  pagans  considered  it  ?  .  .153 




A.D.  64-A.D.   1 80 


The  early  Church  remained  continually  under  the  veiled  shadow  of 
persecution — This  state  of  things  we  learn,  not  from  the  "Acts 
of  the  Martyrs,"  which,  save  in  a  certain  number  of  instances, 
are  of  questionable  authority,  but  from  fragments  which 
have  come  down  to  us  of  contemporary  writings — Extracts 
from  two  groups  of  the  more  important  of  these  are  quoted  .  163 



First  Group. — From  writings  of  apostles  and  apostolic  men, 
including  the  Epistle  to  the  Hebrews — i  Peter — Revelation 
of  S.  John — First  letter  of  S.  Clement  of  Rome — The  seven 
genuine  letters  of  S.  Ignatius  .  .  .  .  .166 



Second  Group. — Early  writings,  dating  from  the  time  of  Trajan  to 
the  death  of  Marcus  Antoninus  (A.D.  1 80) ;  including — "Letters 
of    Pliny    and    Trajan  " — "  Letter    to    Diognetus  " — "  The 
Shepherd  of  Hermas  " — "  ist  Apology  of  Justin  Martyr  "- 
"  Minucius    Felix  " — "  Writings    of    Melito    of    Sardis  "- 
"  Writings  of  Athenagoras  " — "  Writings  of  Theophilus  of 
Antioch  " — "  Writings   of    Tertullian  " — the    last-named    a 
very  few  years  later,  but  bearing  on  same  period         .  177 



The  sight  of  the  martyrs'  endurance  under  suffering  had  a  marked 
effect  on  the  pagan  population.  This  was  noticed  and 
dreaded  by  the  Roman  magistracy.  Efforts  were  constantly 
made  by  the  Government  to  arrest  or  at  least  to  limit  the 
number  of  martyrs  ...  .  193 




The  Church  conscious  of  the  powerful  effect  of  a  public  martyr 
dom  upon  the  pagan  crowds — established  a  training  for — 
a  preparation  in  view  of  a  possible  martyrdom — This 
training  included  :  (a)  A  public  recitation  in  the  congregations 
of  Christians  of  the  "  Acts,"  "  Visions,"  and  "  Dreams  "  of 
confessors — (6)  The  preparation  of  special  manuals  prepared 
for  the  study  of  Christians — In  these  manuals  our  Lord's 
words  were  dwelt  on — (c)  A  prolonged  practice  of  austerities, 
with  the  view  of  hardening  the  body  for  the  endurance 
of  pain  '  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  197 



Certain  of  Tertullian's  references  to  this  preparation,  and  to  the 
austerities  practised  with  this  view,  are  quoted.  (His  words, 
written  circa  A.D.  200,  indicate  what  was  in  the  second 
century  a  common  practice  in  the  Church.)  S.  Ignatius's 
words  in  his  letter  to  the  Roman  Church  are  a  good  example 
of  what  was  the  use  of  the  Church  in  the  early  years  of  the 
second  century — Some  of  the  words  in  question  are  quoted  .  202 




Christian  tradition  by  no  means  exaggerates  the  number  of 
martyrs — the  contrary,  indeed,  is  the  case — In  the  first  two 
hundred  and  fifty  years  the  general  tone  of  the  early 
Christian  writings  (above  quoted)  dwells  on  those  blood 
stained  days — But  the  great  pagan  authors  of  the  second 
century,  Tacitus  and  Pliny,  are  the  most  definite  on  the 
question  of  the  vast  number  of  martyrs — Here  is  cited  a  new 
piece  of  evidence  concerning  these  great  numbers  from 
notices  in  the  "  Pilgrim  Itineraries  "  or  "  Guides  "  to  the 
catacombs  of  the  sixth  and  following  centuries — These  tell 
us  what  the  pilgrims  visited — The  vast  numbers  of  martyrs 
in  the  different  cemeteries  again  and  again  are  dwelt  upon  .  207 


List  of  the  various  cemeteries  and  their  locality,  with  special  notice 

of  numbers  of  martyrs  buried  in  each    .  .  .  .210 





The  "  Monza  "  Catalogue — made  for  Queen  Theodolinda  by 
Gregory  the  Great,  with  notices  of  number  of  martyrs  from 
the  catalogue  in  question — Inscriptions  of  Pope  Damasus — 
References  by  the  poet  Prudentius  on  the  number  of  martyrs  .  214 




General  summary,  allowing  for  some  exaggeration  in  the  "Pilgrim" 
Guides  and  in  the  "Monza"  Catalogue,  on  the  great  numbers 
of  these  confessors  and  martyrs  .  .  .  .215 



The  nature  of  the  catacombs'  witness  to  the  secret  of  the  "  Inner 
Life  "  of  the  Church — A  brief  sketch  of  the  contents  of  the 
Fourth"  Book  .  .  .  .  •  .  .219 


Early  researches — Their  disastrous  character — De  Rossi — His 
view  of  the  importance  of  the  testimony  of  the  catacombs 
in  early  Christian  history — Much  that  has  been  considered 
legendary  is  really  historic — Witness  of  catacombs  to  the 
faith  of  the  earliest  Christians  ....  223 



Among  the  materials  with  which  De  Rossi  worked  may  be  cited  : 
Acta  Martyrum  of  S.  Jerome,  Liber  Pontificalis,  the 
"  Pilgrim  Itineraries,"  and  the  "  Monza "  Catalogue, 
which  is  specially  described — Decoration  of  certain  crypts — 
Basilica  (ruins)  above  ground — Luminaria — Graffiti  of 
pilgrims — Inscriptions  of  Pope  Damasus  in  situ,  and  also 
preserved  in  ancient  syllogae  .....  226 



Certain  of  his  more  important  discoveries  in  the  cemeteries  of 
SS.  Domitilla,  Priscilla,  Callistus — The  yet  later  discoveries 
of  Marucchi  and  others  .  .  .  .  .230 



(i)  The  Vatican  cemetery  and  the  groups  of  catacombs  on  the 

right  bank  of  the  Tiber          .  .  .  .  .232 


(2)  On  the  Via  Ostiensis — Basilica  of  S.  Paul — Cemeteries  on 
the  Via  Ardeatina — Grandeur  of  cemetery  of  S.  Domitilla — 
The  small  basilica  of  S.  Petronilla  ....  236 

(3)  Groups  of  cemeteries  on  the  Via  Appia — S.  Sebastian  (ad 
Catacumbas} — Group  of  S.  Callistus — The  Papal  crypt — 
S.  Soteris — Catacomb  of  Praetextatus  on  left  hand  of  the 
Via  Appia — Tomb  of  S.  Januarius  in  this  catacomb  .  242 


(4)  Cemeteries  on  the  Via  Latina  and  Via  Tiburtina — S.  Hip- 
polytus — S.  Laurence — S.  Agnes'  cemetery  on  the  Via 
Nomentana  .......  248 


(5)  Cemeteries  on  the  Via  Salaria  Nova — S.  Felicitas ;  the  great 
cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla,  and  the  ancient  Roman  churches 
connected  with  it — Legends — Remains  of  basilica  of  S. 
Sylvester  over  the  cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla — Memories  of 
S.  Peter  in  this  cemetery — Its  waters — Recent  discoveries — 
Popes  buried  in  the  basilica  of  S.  Sylvester  .  .258 


(6)  Unimportant  cemeteries  on  the  Via  Salaria  Vetus — S.  Pam- 

phylus — S.  Hermes — S.  Valentinus,  etc.       .  .  -     274 




Suggested  derivation  of  Petronilla — De  Rossi  and  other  scholars 
still  hold  to  the  ancient  Pe trine  tradition — Reasons  for 
maintaining  it — Early  mediaeval  testimony  here — Traces  of 
the  early  cult  of  this  Saint  .  .  .  277 


Probable  situation  of  the  tomb  in  present  basilica  of  S.  Peter — 
Account  of  what  was  found  in  the  course  of  the  excavations 
in  the  seventeenth  century,  by  Ubaldi,  Canon  of  S.  Peter's, 
who  was  an  eye-witness  of  the  discoveries  made  in  A.D.  1626, 
when  the  works  required  for  the  great  bronze  Baldachino  of 
Bernini  were  being  carried  out  t  .  .  279 




The  old  story  of  the  famous  Saint  no  longer  a  mere  legend — 
Reconstruction  of  S.  Cecilia's  life — The  crypt  is  described— 
Her  basilica  in  the  Trastevere  quarter — once  S.  Cecilia's 
house  ........  289 



Discovery  of  remains  of  S.  Cecilia  by  Paschal  i.,  A.D.  821 — 
Appearance  of  the  body,  which  he  translated  from  the  crypt 
in  the  catacomb  of  Callistus  to  her  basilica — Her  tomb  in 
the  basilica  opened  in  A.D.  1599  by  Clement  vm. — Appear 
ance  of  the  body — Maderno  copied  it  in  marble — How  De 
Rossi  discovered  and  identified  in  the  original  catacomb 
the  crypt  of  S.  Cecilia  .....  292 


THE    TOMB    OF   S.    FELICITAS,    AND    OF    HER    SONS 

Discovery  and  identification  of  the  burial-places  of  S.  Felicitas,  of 
S.  Januarius,  and  of  her  other  sons — Reconstruction  of  her 
story — Tomb  of  S.  Januarius  found  in  cemetery  of  Praetex- 
tatus  on  the  Via  Appia — Original  tomb  of  S.  Felicitas  found 
in  the  cemetery  bearing  her  name  (Via  Salaria  Nova) — 
Identification  of  the  burial-places  of  her  other  sons  .  298 







Uncounted  numbers  of  graves  in  this  silent  city  of  the  dead  ; 
computed  at  three,  four,  or  five  millions — belonging  to  all 
ranks— Some  of  these  were  elaborately  adorned — Greek  often 
the  language  of  very  early  epitaphs — Great  simplicity  as 
a  rule  in  inscriptions — No  panegyric  of  dead — just  a  name — 
a  prayer — an  emblem  of  faith  and  hope — Communion  of 
saints  everywhere  asserted  .....  307 



A  few  of  these  epitaphs  quoted — never  a  word  of  sorrow  for  the 
departed  found  in  them — Question  of  the  catacomb  teaching 
on  efficacy  of  prayers  of  the  dead  for  the  living — S.  Cyprian 
quoted  here — Desire  of  being  interred  close  to  a  famous 
martyr — Marked  difference  in  the  pagan  conception  of  the 
dead — Some  pagan  epitaphs  quoted  .  .  .  .310 



The  epitaphs  on  the  catacomb  graves  tell  us  with  no  uncertain 
voice  how  intensely  real  among  the  Christian  folk  was  the 
conviction  of  the  future  life — They  talk,  as  it  were,  with  the 
dead  as  with  living  ones — Dogmatic  allusions  in  these  short 
epitaphs  necessarily  are  very  brief,  but  yet  are  quite  definite — 
The  supreme  divinity  of  Jesus  Christ  constantly  asserted — 
The  catacombs  are  full  of  Christ — Of  the  emblems  carved  on 
the  graves — Jesus  Christ  as  "  the  Good  Shepherd  "  most 
frequent — The  "Crucifixion"  became  a  favourite  subject  of 
representation  only  in  later  years  .  .  .  -314 


On  the  wish  to  be  interred  close  to  a  saint  or  martyr — Quotation 

from  S.  Augustine  here  .  .  .  •  •     321 





The  story  of  the  Jew — his  past — his  condition  now,  is  the 
weightiest  argument  that  can  be  adduced  in  support  of  the 
truth  of  Christianity — What  happened  to  the  "  sad  rem 
nant  "  of  the  people  after  the  exterminating  wars  of  Titus 
and  Hadrian,  A.D.  70  and  134-5,  is  little  known;  yet  the 
wonderful  story  of  the  Jew,  especially  in  the  second  and  third 
centuries,  is  a  piece  of  supreme  importance — How  Rabbinic 
study  and  the  putting  out  of  the  Talmud  have  influenced 
the  general  estimate  of  the  Old  Testament  among  Christian 
peoples  ........  325 



The  First  War,  A.D.  66-70 — Revolt  of  the  Jews — The  dangerous 
revolt  was  eventually  crushed  by  Vespasian,  and  when  he 
succeeded  to  the  Empire  his  son  Titus  completed  the 
conquest — Fate  of  the  city  of  Jerusalem,  A.D.  70 — Why 
was  the  Temple  burned  ? — The  recital  of  Sulpicius  Severus 
gives  the  probable  answer — The  account  in  question  was 
apparently  quoted  from  a  lost  book  of  Tacitus — The  Roman 
triumph  of  Titus — The  memories  of  the  conquered  Jews  on 
the  Arch  of  Titus  in  the  Forum — The  great  change  in 
Judaism  after  A.D.  70,  when  the  Temple  and  city  were 
destroyed — The  change  was  completed  after  the  war  of 
Hadrian  in  A.D.  134-5  (the  third  war) — Brief  account  of 
the  second  and  third  wars — The  bitter  persecution  after  the 
third  war  soon  ceased,  and  the  sad  Jewish  remnant  was  left 
virtually  to  itself  ......  329 



The  conservation  of  the  remnant  of  the  Jews  was  owing  to  the 
development  of  Rabbinism — Rabbinism,  however,  existed 
before  A.D.  70 — Traditional  story  of  the  rise  of  Rabbinism 
contained  in  the  "  Mishnah "  treatise  Pirke  Aboth — 
Effect  of  the  great  catastrophe  of  A.D.  70 — Mosaism  was 
destroyed,  and  was  replaced  by  Rabbinism  .  .  .338 





Extraordinary  group  of  eminent  Rabbis  who  arose  after  the 
catastrophe  of  A.D.  70 — Their  new  conception  of  the  future 
of  Israel — The  Torah  (Law  of  Moses)  and  other  writings  of 
the  Old  Testament  from  the  days  of  Ezra  had  been  esteemed 
ever  more  and  more  highly — The  "  Halachah  "  or  (Rules 
round  the  Torah)  gradually  multiplied — The  elaboration 
of  these  "  Halachah  "  and  "  Haggadah  "  (traditions)  formed 
the  "  Mishnah  " — this  work  roughly  occupied  the  new  Jewish 
schools  during  the  whole  of  the  second  century — Explanation 
of  term  "  Mishnah  " — The  next  two  or  three  centuries  were 
occupied  by  the  Rabbis  in  their  schools  of  Palestine  and 
Babylonia  in  a  further  commentary  on  the  "  Mishnah  " — 
This  second  work  of  the  Rabbis  was  termed  the  "  Gemara  "  .  342 



Portions  of  the  "  Talmud  "  had  existed  before  A.D.  70 — probably 
some  few  of  the  "  Halachah  "  and  "  Haggadah  "  even  dating 
from  the  days  of  Moses — some  from  the  times  of  the  Judges, 
and  others  belonging  to  the  schools  of  the  Prophets — In  the 
times  of  Ezra  arose  the  strange  and  unique  "  Guild  of  Scribes," 
devoted  to  the  study  and  interpretation  of  the  sacred  writings 
and  the  traditions  which  had  gathered  round  them  in  past  ages 
— R.  Hillel  a  li ttle  before  the  Christian  era  began  the  task  of 
arranging  the  results  of  the  labours  of  the  scribes — R.  Akiba 
after  A.D.  70  continued  the  work  of  arrangement,  but  was 
interrupted — His  fame  and  story — R.  Meir  further  worked 
at  the  same  task,  which  was  finally  completed  by  R.  Judah 
the  Holy,  who  generally  arranged  the  Mishnah  in  the  form 
in  which  it  has  come  down  to  us — This  "  Mishnah  "  served 
as  the  text  for  the  great  academies  of  Palestine  and  Baby 
lonia  to  work  on  in  the  third  and  two  following  centuries — 
Their  writings  are  known  as  the  "  Gemara  " — The  Mishnah 
and  Gemara  together  form  the  Talmud — A  picture  of  the 
great  Rabbinic  academies  of  Palestine  and  Babylonia — 
Their  methods  of  study  .  347 



Description  of  the  Massorah — The  work  of  the  Massorites  in  the 
preservation  of  the  text  of  the  sacred  books — Present  con 
dition  of  the  Massorah .  .  .  .  .  .361 





Inspiration  of  the  Old  Testament  Scriptures,  according  to  the 

Talmud  account  ......  364 

The  story  of  the  Talmud  through  the  ages  ....  365 

The  Talmud  and  the  New  Testament  ....  366 

Influence  of  the  Talmud  on  Judaism  ....  368 

Influence  of  the  Talmud  on  Christianity      ....  370 


(A}  AN    APPENDIX    ON    THE    "  HAGGADAH  " 

"  Haggadah  "  in  the  Talmud  and  in  other  ancient  Rabbinical 
writings — Signification  of  the  "  Haggadah  " — Its  great  im 
portance — Its  enduring  popularity  .  .  .  .  371 

Examples  of  "  Haggadah  "  quoted  from  the  Palestinian  Targum 

on  Deuteronomy  ......  373 



The  general  purport  of  the  "Halachah" — Some  illustrations — 
Further  details  connected  with  the  "Haggadah" — It  is  not 
confined  to  the  later  Books  of  the  Old  Testament— The 
"  Haggadah  "  also  belongs  to  the  Pentateuch — Examples  of 
this  quoted — Instances  of  the  influence  of  "Haggadah"  in 
the  New  Testament  Books'  .....  376 

WOMEN'S  DISABILITIES        ...  ...     380 

INDEX  .......  .381 


CHILDREN  IN  THE  FURNACE  .  .  .  Frontispiece 

From  Palmer's  Early  Christian  Symbolism.     By  permission  of  KEGAN 


ITE  PICTURE  IN  THE  CATACOMBS)  .  .  .  .219 


FLAVIANS,  FIRST  CENTURY)   .....     240 

From  Roma  Sotterranea  Cristiana.    By  permission  of  the  Author,  ORAZIO 

TOMB  OF  THE  SAINT    ......     245 

Photo,  S.  J.  BECKETT 


Photo,  S.  J.  BECKETT 



Photo,  S.  J.  BECKETT 

S.  PETER'S,  ROME — THE  CONFESSION       s  .  .  .281 

Photo,  S.  J.  BECKETT 





WHERE    THE    BODY    ORIGINALLY    WAS    DEPOSITED          .  .       293 

Photo,  S.  J.  BECKETT 


Photo,  S.  J.  BECKETT 

THE  TEMPLE — JERUSALEM — THE  HOLY  PLACE    .  .  .     330 

From     the     Jewish     Encvclopcedia.         By     permission     of      FUNK     & 


WALLS  OF  THE  TEMPLE          .  .  .  .  .     332 



A.D.  70  .....  .     340 

From  a  drawing  in  the  Jewish  Encyclopaedia.     By  permission. 

"ASSURED  the  trial,  fiery,  fierce,  but  fleet, 
Would,  from  his  little  heap  of  ashes,  lend 
Wings  to  that  conflagration  of  the  world 
Which  Christ  awaits  ere  He  makes  all  things  new : 
So  should  the  frail  become  the  perfect,  rapt 
From  glory  of  pain  to  glory  of  joy." 

BROWNING,  The  Ring  and  the  Book ,  x.  1797 


BOOK    I 



PART    I 


AT  the  beginning  of  the  first  century  of  the  Christian  era 
the  Jewish  colony  in  Rome  had  attained  large  dimen 
sions.  As  early  as  B.C.  162  we  hear  of  agreements — 
we  can  scarcely  call  them  treaties — concluded  between  the 
Jews  under  the  Maccabean  dynasty  and  the  Republic.  After 
the  capture  of  Jerusalem  by  Pompey,  B.C.  63,  a  number  more 
of  Jewish  exiles  swelled  the  number  of  the  chosen  people  who 
had  settled  in  the  capital.  Cicero  when  pleading  for  Flaccus, 
who  was  their  enemy,  publicly  alludes  to  their  numbers  and 
influence.  Their  ranks  were  still  further  recruited  in  B.C.  51, 
when  a  lieutenant  of  Crassus  brought  some  thousands  of 
Jewish  prisoners  to  Rome.  During  the  civil  wars,  Julius 
Caesar  showed  marked  favour  to  the  chosen  people.  After  his 
murder  they  were  prominent  among  those  who  mourned 

Augustus  continued  the  policy  of  Julius  Caesar,  and  showed 
them  much  favour  ;  their  influence  in  Roman  society  during 
the  earlier  years  of  the  Empire  seems  to  have  been  consider 
able.  They  are  mentioned  by  the  great  poets  who  flourished 
in  the  Augustan  age.  The  Jewish  Sabbath  is  especially  alluded 
to  by  Roman  writers  as  positively  becoming  a  fashionable 
observance  in  the  capital. 

A  few  distinguished  families,  who  really  possessed  little  of 
the  Hebrew  character  and  nationality  beyond  the  name, 
such  as  the  Herods,  adopted  the  manners  and  ways  of  life 


of  the  Roman  patrician  families ;  but  as  a  rule  the  Jews  in 
foreign  lands  preferred  the  obscurity  to  which  the  reputation 
of  poverty  condemned  them.  Some  of  them  were  doubtless 
possessors  of  wealth,  but  they  carefully  concealed  it  ;  the 
majority,  however,  were  poor,  and  they  even  gloried  in  their 
poverty  ;  they  haunted  the  lowest  and  poorest  quarters  of 
the  great  city.  Restlessly  industrious,  they  made  their 
livelihood,  many  of  them,  out  of  the  most  worthless  objects 
of  merchandise  ;  but  they  obtained  in  the  famous  capital  a 
curious  celebrity.  There  was  something  peculiar  in  this 
strange  people  at  once  attractive  and  repellent.  The  French 
writer  Allard,  in  the  exhaustive  and  striking  volumes  in  which 
he  tells  the  story  of  the  persecutions  in  his  own  novel  and 
brilliant  way,  epigrammatically  writes  of  the  Jew  in  the  golden 
age  of  Augustus  as  "  one  who  was  known  to  pray  and  to  pore 
over  his  holy  national  literature  in  Rome  which  never  prayed 
and  which  possessed  no  religious  books  "  ("  II  prie  et  il  etudie 
ses  livres  saintes,  dans  Rome  qui  n'a  pas  de  theologie  et  qui 
ne  prie  pas  ").  &.$ 

They  lived  their  solitary  life  alone  in  the  midst  of  the 
crowded  city — by  themselves  in  life,  by  themselves,  too,  in 
death  ;  for  they  possessed  their  own  cemeteries  in  the  sub 
urbs, — catacombs  we  now  term  them, — strange  God's  acres 
where  they  buried,  for  they  never  burned,  their  dead,  carefully 
avoiding  the  practice  of  cremation,  a  practice  then  generally 
in  vogue  in  pagan  Rome.  Upon  these  Jewish  cemeteries  the 
Christians,  as  they  increased  in  numbers,  largely  modelled 
those  vast  cities  of  the  dead  of  which  we  shall  speak  pre 

They  watched  over  and  tenderly  succoured  their  own  poor 
and  needy,  the  widow  and  the  orphan  ;  on  the  whole  living 
pure  self-denying  lives,  chiefly  disfigured  by  the  restless  spirit, 
which  ever  dwelt  in  the  Jewish  race,  of  greed  and  avarice. 
They  were  happy,  howrever,  in  their  own  way,  living  on  the 
sacred  memories  of  a  glorious  past,  believing  with  an  intense 
belief  that  they  were  still,  as  in  the  glorious  days  of  David 
and  Solomon,  the  people  beloved  of  God — and  that  ever 
beneath  them,  in  spite  of  their  many  confessed  backslidings, 
were  the  Everlasting  Arms ;  trusting,  with  a  faith  which 


never  paled  or  faltered,  that  the  day  would  surely  come  when 
out  of  their  own  people  a  mighty  Deliverer  would  arise,  who 
would  restore  them  to  their  loved  sacred  city  and  country  ; 
would  invest  His  own,  His  chosen  nation,  with  a  glory 
and  power  grander,  greater  than  the  world  had  ever 

There  is  no  doubt  but  that  the  Jew  of  Rome  in  Rome's 
golden  days,  in  spite  of  his  seeming  poverty  and  degradation, 
possessed  a  peculiar  moral  power  in  the  great  empire,  unknown 
among  pagan  nations.1 

In  the  reign  of  Nero,  when  the  disciples  of  Jesus  in  Rome 
first  emerged  from  the  clouds  and  mists  which  envelop  the 
earliest  days  of  Roman  Christianity,  the  number  of  Jews  in 
the  capital  is  variously  computed  as  amounting  to  from 
30,000  to  50,000  persons. 

The  Jewish  colony  in  Rome  was  a  thoroughly  representa 
tive  body  of  Jews.  They  were  gathered  from  many  centres 
of  population,  Palestine  and  Jerusalem  itself  contributing 
a  considerable  contingent.  They  evidently  were  distinguished 
for  the  various  qualities,  good  and  bad,  which  generally  char 
acterized  this  strange,  wonderful  people.  They  were  restless, 
at  times  turbulent,  proud  and  disdainful,  avaricious  and 
grasping  ;  but  at  the  same  time  they  were  tender  and  com 
passionate  in  a  very  high  degree  to  the  sad-eyed  unfortunate 
ones  among  their  own  people, — most  reverent,  as  we  have 
remarked,  in  the  matter  of  disposing  of  their  dead, — on  the 
whole  giving  an  example  of  a  morality  far  higher  than  that 
which,  as  a  rule,  prevailed  among  the  citizens  of  the  mighty 
capital  in  the  midst  of  whom  they  dwelt. 

The  nobler  qualities  which  emphatically  distinguished 
the  race  were  no  doubt  fostered  by  the  intense  religious  spirit 

1  A  singular  and  interesting  passage  of  Allard  here  deserves  to  be  quoted 
verbatim  :  "  Dans  Rome  ou  le  celibat  est  devenu  une  plaie  sociale,  ou  la 
population  diminue,  ou  la  st6rilit6  regne  au  foyer  domestique,  ou  1'avorte- 
ment  1'infanticide  sont  frequents  et  a  peine  reprimes,  les  Juifs  seuls  ont 
beaucoup  d'enfants — Tacite  a  d6fini  d'un  mot  ce  trait  de  leur  race  ;  '  generandi 
amor,'  dit-il  en  enumerant  les  principaux  characters  du  peuple  Juif.  Tous 
les  temoignages  anciens  parlent  de  leur  grand  nombre  ;  'augmenter  etait  une 
de  leurs  preoccupations,  '  augendcs  multitudini  consulitur  '  dit  encore  Tacite." 
See  Tacitus,  Hist.  v.  5  ;  Allard,  i.  p.  12. 


which  lived  and  breathed  in  every  Jewish  household.  The 
fear  of  the  eternal  God,  who  they  believed  with  an  intense 
and  changeless  faith  loved  them,  was  ever  before  the  eyes 
alike  of  the  humblest,  poorest  little  trader,  as  of  the  wealthiest 
merchant  in  their  company. 



INTO  this  mass  of  Jewish  strangers  dwelling  in  the  great 
city  came  the  news  of  the  wonderful  work  of  Jesus  Christ. 
As  among  the  Jews  at  Jerusalem,  so  too  in  Rome,  the 
story  of  the  Cross  attracted  many — repelled  many.  The 
glorious  news  of  salvation,  of  redemption,  sank  quietly  into 
many  a  sick  and  weary  heart  ;  these  hearts  were  kindled  into  a 
passionate  love  for  Him  who  had  redeemed  them — into  a  love 
such  as  had  never  before  been  kindled  in  any  human  heart. 
While,  on  the  other  hand,  with  many,  the  thought  that  the 
treasured  privileges  of  the  chosen  people  were  henceforward 
to  be  shared  on  equal  terms  by  the  despised  Gentile  world, 
excited  a  bitter  and  uncompromising  opposition — an  opposi 
tion  which  oftentimes  shaded  into  an  intense  hate. 

The  question  as  to  who  first  preached  the  gospel  of  Jesus 
Christ  to  this  great  Jewish  colony  will  probably  never  be 
answered.  There  is  a  high  probability  that  the  "  story  of 
the  Cross  "  was  told  very  soon  after  the  Resurrection  by  some 
of  those  pilgrims  to  the  Holy  City  who  had  been  eye-witnesses 
of  the  miracle  of  the  first  Pentecost. 

There  is,  however,  a  question  connected  with  the  begin 
nings  of  Christianity  in  Rome  which  is  of  the  deepest  interest 
to  the  student  of  ecclesiastical  history,  a  question  upon  which 
much  that  has  happened  since  largely  hangs. 

Was  S.  Peter  in  any  way  connected  with  the  laying  of  the 
foundation  of  the  great  Christian  community  in  Rome  ;  can 
he  really  be  considered  as  one  of  the  founders  of  that  most 
important  Church  ?  An  immemorial  tradition  persists  in  so 
connecting  him  ;  upon  what  grounds  is  this  most  ancient 
tradition  based  ? 

Scholars  of  all  religious  schools  of  thought  now  generally 


allow  that  S.  Peter  visited  Rome  and  spent  some  time  in  the 
capital  city  ;  wrote  his  great  First  Epistle  from  it,  in  which 
Epistle  he  called  "  Rome  "  by  the  not  unusual  mystic  name 
of  "  Babylon,"  and  eventually  suffered  martyrdom  there  on 
a  spot  hard  by  the  mighty  basilica  called  by  his  name. 

The  only  point  at  issue  is,  did  he — as  the  favourite  tradition 
asserts — pay  his  first  visit  to  Rome  quite  early  in  the  Christian 
story,  circa  A.D.  42,  remaining  there  for  some  seven  or  eight 
years  preaching  and  teaching,  laying  the  foundations  of  the 
great  Church  which  rapidly  sprang  up  in  the  capital  ? 

Then  when  the  decree  of  the  Emperor  Claudius  banished 
the  Jews,  A.D.  49-50,  the  tradition  asserts  that  the  apostle 
returned  to  the  East,  was  present  at  the  Apostolic  Council 
held  at  Jerusalem  A.D.  50,  only  returning  to  Rome  circa  A.D. 
63.  Somewhere  about  A.D.  64  the  First  Epistle  of  Peter  was 
probably  written  from  Rome.1  His  martyrdom  there  is 
best  dated  about  A.D.  67. 

A  careful  examination  of  the  most  ancient  "  Notices  " 
bearing  especially  on  the  question  of  the  laying  of  the  early 
stories  of  the  Roman  Church,  determines  the  writer  of  this 
little  study  to  adopt  the  above  rough  statement  of  S.  Peter's 
work  at  Rome.  Some  of  the  principal  portions  of  these 
"  notices  "  will  now  be  quoted,  that  it  may  be  seen  upon  what 
basis  the  conclusion  in  question  is  adopted.  The  quotations 
will  be  followed  by  a  sketch  of  the  traditional  and  other  evi 
dence  specially  drawn  from  the  testimony  of  the  very  early 
Roman  catacomb  of  S.  Priscilla.  This  sketch,  which  is  here 
termed  the  "  traditional  evidence,"  it  will  be  seen,  power 
fully  supports  the  deduction  derived  from  the  notices  quoted 
from  very  early  Christian  literature. 

1  Professor  Ramsay  in  his  book,  The  Church  in  the  Roman  Empire, 
prefers  a  later  date  for  the  composition  of  the  First  Epistle  of  St.  Peter 
than  that  usually  given,  A.D.  64-5.  He  believes  it  was  impregnated  with 
Roman  thought  and  was  certainly  written  from  Rome,  but  not  before 
A.D.  80.  This  would  give  a  long  period  of  Roman  work  to  the  apostle  ;  still — 
able  as  are  Professor  Ramsay's  arguments — the  later  date  and  all  that  it 
involves  are  absolutely  at  variance  with  the  universal  tradition. 



Clemens  Romanus,  A.D.  95-6.  In  the  fifth  chapter  of  the 
well-known  and  undoubtedly  authentic  Letter  of  Clement 
of  Rome  to  the  Corinthians,  the  writer  calls  the  attention  of 
the  Corinthians  to  the  examples  of  the  Christian  "  athletes  " 
who  "  lived  very  near  to  our  own  time."  He  speaks  of  the 
apostles  who  were  persecuted,  and  who  were  faithful  to 
death.  "  There  was  Peter,  who  after  undergoing  many 
sufferings,  and  having  borne  his  testimony,  went  to  his 
appointed  place  of  glory.  There  was  Paul,  who  after  endur 
ing  chains,  imprisonments,  stonings,  again  and  again,  and 
sufferings  of  all  kinds  .  .  .  likewise  endured  martyrdom,  and 
so  departed  from  this  world." 

The  reason  why  Clement  of  Rome  mentions  these  two 
special  apostles  (other  apostles  had  already  suffered  martyrdom) 
is  obvious.  Clement  was  referring  to  examples  of  which  they 
themselves  had  been  eye-witnesses.  Paul,  it  is  universally 
acknowledged,  was  martyred  in  Rome  ;  is  not  the  inference 
from  the  words  of  Clement,  that  Peter  suffered  martyrdom  in 
this  same  city  also,  overwhelming  ? 

Ignatius,  circa  A.D.  108-9,  some  twelve  or  thirteen  years 
after  Clement  had  written  his  Epistle  to  the  Corinthians,  on 
his  journey  to  his  martyrdom  at  Rome,  thus  writes  to  the 
Roman  Church  :  "  I  do  not  command  you  like  Peter  and  Paul : 
they  were  apostles  ;  I  am  a  condemned  criminal."  Why  now 
did  Ignatius  single  out  Peter  and  Paul  ?  So  Bishop  Light  foot, 
commenting  on  this  passage,  forcibly  says  :  "  Ignatius  was 
writing  from  Asia  Minor.  He  was  a  guest  of  a  disciple  of  John 
at  the  time.  He  was  sojourning  in  a  country  where  John 
was  the  one  prominent  name.  The  only  conceivable  reason 
why  he  specially  named  Peter  and  Paul  was  that  these  two 
apostles  had  both  visited  Rome  and  were  remembered  by  the 
Roman  Church." 

Papias  of  Hierapolis,  born  circa  A.D.  60-70.  His  writings 
probably  date  somewhat  late  in  the  first  quarter  of  the  second 
century.  On  the  authority  of  Presbyter  John,  a  personal  dis 
ciple  of  the  Lord,  Papias  tells  us  about  Mark  :  he  was  a  friend 
and  interpreter  of  S.  Peter,  and  wrote  down  what  he  heard 


his  master  teach,  and  there  (in  Rome)  composed  his  "  record." 
This  notice  seems  to  have  been  connected  by  Papias  with 
i  Pet.  v.  13,  where  Mark  is  alluded  to  in  connexion  with  the 
fellow-elect  in  Babylon  (Rome). 

"  It  seems,"  concludes  Bishop  Light  foot,  referring  to 
Irenaeus  (5.  Clement  of  Rome,  ii.  494),  "  a  tolerably  safe 
inference,  therefore,  that  Papias  represented  S.  Peter  as  being 
in  Rome,  that  he  stated  Mark  to  have  been  with  him  there, 
and  that  he  assigned  to  the  latter  a  Gospel  record  (the 
second  Gospel)  which  was  committed  to  writing  for  the  in 
struction  of  the  Romans." 

Dionysius  of  Corinth,  A.D.  170,  quoted  by  Eusebius 
(H.  E.  ii.  xxv.),  wrote  to  Soter,  bishop  of  Rome,  as  follows: 
"  Herein  by  such  instructions  (to  us)  ye  have  united  the 
trees  of  the  Romans  and  Corinthians  (trees)  planted  by  Peter 
and  Paul.  For  they  both  alike  came  also  to  our  Corinth,  and 
taught  us  ;  and  both  alike  came  together  to  Italy,  and  having 
taught  there,  suffered  martyrdom  at  the  same  time." 

Irenceus,  circa  A.D.  177-90,  writes  :  "  Matthew  published 
also  a  written  Gospel  among  the  Hebrews  in  their  own  language, 
while  Peter  and  Paul  were  preaching  and  founding  the  Church 
in  Rome.  Again  after  their  departure,  Mark,  the  disciple  and 
interpreter  of  Peter,  himself  also  handed  down  to  us  in  writing 
the  lessons  preached  by  Peter." — H.  E.  in.  i.  i. 

Clement  of  Alexandria,  circa  A.D.  193-217  (Hypdtyposes, 
quoted  by  Eusebius,  H.  E.  vi.  14)  tells  us  how,  "  when  Peter 
had  preached  the  word  publicly  in  Rome,  and  declared  the 
gospel  by  the  Spirit,  the  bystanders,  being  many  in  number, 
exhorted  Mark  as  having  accompanied  him  for  a  long  time, 
and  remembering  what  he  had  said,  to  write  out  his  statements, 
and  having  thus  composed  his  Gospel,  to  communicate  it  to 
them ;  and  that  when  Peter  learnt  this,  he  used  no  pressure 
either  to  prevent  him  or  to  urge  him  forwards." 

Tertullian,  circa  A.D.  200,  adds  his  testimony  thus  :  "  We 
read  in  the  lives  of  the  Cresars,  Nero  was  the  first  to  stain  the 
rising  faith  with  blood.  Thus  Peter  is  girt  by  another  (quoting 
the  Lord's  words)  when  he  is  boind  to  the  Cross.  Thus  Paul 
obtains  his  birthright  of  Roman  citizenship  when  he  is  born 
again  there  by  the  nobility  of  Martyrdom." — Scorpiace,  15. 


TerMlian  again  writes  :  "  Nor  does  it  matter  whether  they 
are  among  those  whom  John  baptized  in  the  Jordan,  or  those 
whom  Peter  baptized  in  the  Tiber." — De  Baptismo,  4. 

Tertullian  once  more  tells  us  :  "  The  Church  of  the  Romans 
reports  that  Clement  was  ordained  by  Peter."  -De  Prce- 
scriptione  Hcer.  36. 

Tertullian  again  bears  similar  testimony  :  "  If  thou  art 
near  to  Italy,  thou  hast  Rome.  .  .  .  How  happy  is  that 
Church  on  whom  the  apostles  shed  all  their  teaching  with 
their  blood,  where  Peter  is  conformed  to  the  passion  of  the 
Lord,  where  Paul  is  crowned  with  the  death  of  John  (the 
Baptist),  where  the  Apostle  John  after  having  been  plunged 
in  boiling  oil,  without  suffering  any  harm,  is  banished  to  an 
island  !  "  —  De  Prcescriptione,  36. 

Caius  (or  Gaius)  the  Roman  presbyter,  circa  A.D.  200-20, 
who  lived  in  the  days  of  Pope  Zephyrinus,  and  was  a  con 
temporary  of  Hippolytus,  if  not  (as  Lightfoot  suspects) 
identical  with  him  (Hippolytus  of  Portus),  gives  us  the  follow 
ing  detail :  "  I  can  show  you  the  trophies  (the  Memoriae  or 
Chapel-Tombs)  of  the  apostles.  For  if  you  will  go  to  the 
Vatican  or  to  the  Ostian  Way,  thou  wilt  find  (there)  the 
trophies  (the  Memoriae)  of  those  who  founded  the  Church." 

Caius  is  here  claiming  for  his  own  Church  of  Rome  the 
authority  of  the  Apostles  SS.  Peter  and  Paul,  whose  martyred 
bodies  rest  in  Rome. — Quoted  by  Eusebius,  H.  E.  n.  xxv. 

Thus  at  that  early  date  when  Caius  wrote,  the  localities 
of  the  graves  of  the  two  apostles  were  reputed  to  have  been 
the  spots  where  now  stand  the  great  basilicas  of  SS.  Peter  and 

Eusebius,  H.  E.  n.  xiv.,  gives  a  definite  date  for  the  first 
coming  of  Peter  to  Rome,  and  his  preaching  there.  The 
historian  was  describing  the  influence  of  Simon  Magus  at 
Rome.  This,  he  adds,  did  not  long  continue,  "  for  immediately 
under  the  reign  of  Claudius,  by  the  benign  and  gracious  provi 
dence  of  God,  Peter,  that  powerful  and  great  apostle  who  by 
his  courage  took  the  lead  of  all  the  rest,  was  conducted  to 
Rome  against  this  pest  of  mankind.  He  (S.  Peter)  bore  the 
precious  merchandise  of  the  revealed  light  from  the  East 
to  those  in  the  West,  announcing  this  light  itself,  and  salutary 


doctrine  of  the  soul,  the  proclamation  of  the  kingdom  of 

Eusebius  also  writes  that  "  Linus,  whom  he  (Paul)  has 
mentioned  in  his  Second  Epistle  to  Timothy  as  his  companion 
at  Rome,  has  been  before  shown  to  have  been  the  first  after 
Peter  that  obtained  the  Episcopate  at  Rome."-— Eusebius, 
H.  E.  in.  iv. 

The  traditional  memories  of  Peter's  residence  in  Rome 
and  his  prolonged  teaching  there  are  very  numerous.  De 
Rossi  while  quoting  certain  of  these  as  legendary,  adds  that  an 
historical  basis  underlies  these  notices.  Some  of  the  more 
interesting  of  these  are  connected  with  the  house  and  family 
of  Pudens  on  the  Aventine,  and  with  the  cemetery  of  Saint 
Priscilla  on  the  Via  Salaria. 

To  the  pilgrims  of  the  fifth  and  following  centuries  were 
pointed  out  the  chair  in  which  Peter  used  to  sit  and  teach 
(Sedes  ubi  prius  sedit  S.  Petrus),  and  also  the  cemeterium 
fontis  S.  Petri — cemeterium  ubi  Petrus  baptizaverat.  Marucchi, 
the  pupil  and  successor  of  De  Rossi,  believes  that  this  cemetery 
where  it  was  said  S.  Peter  used  to  baptize,  is  identical  with 
parts  of  the  vast  and  ancient  catacomb  of  Priscilla.  These 
and  further  traditional  notices  are  dwelt  on  with  greater  detail 
presently  when  the  general  evidence  is  summed  up.1 

^ee  the  detailed  account  of  this  catacomb,  Book  IV.  261  and  following 



AND  now  to  sum  up  the  evidence  we  have  been  quoting  : 
The  Literary   Notices  have  been  gathered  from  all 
parts  of  the  Roman  world  where  Christianity  had  made 
a  lodgment. 

From  Rome  (Clement  of  Rome)  in  the  first  and  second 
centuries  and  early  in  the  third  century. 

From  Antioch  (Ignatius,  Papias)  (including  Syria  and 
Asia  Minor)  very  early  in  the  second  century. 

From  Corinth  (Greece)  (Dionysius)  in  the  second  half  of 
the  second  century. 

From  Lyons  (Gaul)  (Irenaeus)  in  the  second  half  of  the 
second  century. 

From  Alexandria  (Egypt)  (Clement  of  Alexandria)  in 
the  second  half  of  the  second  century. 

From  Carthage  (North  Africa)  (Tertullian)  in  the  close  of 
the  second  century. 

These  and  other  literary  notices,  more  or  less  definitely, 
all  ascribe  the  laying  of  the  foundation  stories  of  the  Church 
of  Rome  to  the  preaching  and  teaching  of  the  Apostles  Peter 
and  Paul.  All  without  exception  in  their  notices  of  this 
foundation  work  place  the  name  of  Peter  first.  It  is  hardly 
conceivable  that  these  very  early  writers  would  have  done 
this  had  Peter  only  made  his  appearance  in  Rome  for  the 
first  time  in  A.D.  63  or  64,  after  Paul's  residence  in  the  capital 
for  some  two  years,  when  he  was  awaiting  the  trial  which 
resulted  in  his  acquittal. 

Then  again,  the  repeated  mention  of  the  two  great  apostles 
as  the  Founders  of  the  Roman  Church  would  have  been  singu 
larly  inaccurate  if  neither  of  them  had  visited  the  capital 
before  A.D.  60-1,  the  date  of  Paul's  arrival,  and  A.D.  63-4,  the 


date  of  S.  Peter's  coming,  supposing  we  assume  the  later  date 
for  S.  Peter's  coming  and  preaching. 

When  we  examine  the  literary  notices  in  question  we  find 
in  several  of  them  a  more  circumstantial  account  of  Peter's 
work  than  Paul's  ;  for  instance  : 

Papias  and  Irenaus  give  us  special  details  of  S.  Mark's 
position  as  the  interpreter  of  S.  Peter,  and  tell  us  particularly 
how  the  friend  and  disciple  of  S.  Peter  took  down  his  master's 
words,  which  he  subsequently  moulded  into  what  is  known  as 
the  second  Gospel. 

Tertullian  relates  that  S.  Peter  baptized  in  the  Tiber,  and 
mentions,  too,  how  this  apostle  ordained  Clement. 

Eusebius,  the  great  Church  historian  to  whom  we  owe  so 
much  of  our  knowledge  of  early  Church  history,  writing  in  the 
early  years  of  Constantine's  reign,  in  the  first  quarter  of  the 
fourth  century,  goes  still  more  into  detail,  and  gives  us  ap 
proximately  the  date  of  S.  Peter's  first  coming,  which  he 
states  to  have  been  in  the  reign  of  Claudius,  who  was  Emperor 
from  A.D.  41  to  A.D.  54  (Eusebius,  H.  E.  n.  xiv.).  The  same 
historian  also  repeats  the  account  above  referred  to  of  Mark's 
work  as  Peter's  companion  and  scribe  in  Rome  (H.  E.  n.  xv.), 
adding  that  the  "  Church  in  Babylon  "  referred  to  by  S.  Peter 
(i  Ep.  v.  13)  signified  the  Church  of  Rome. 

Jerome,  writing  in  the  latter  years  of  the  same  century 
(the  fourth) ,  is  very  definite  on  the  question  of  the  early  arrival 
of  S.  Peter  at  Rome— "  Romam  mitt  it  ur,"  says  the  great 
scholar,  "  ubi  evangelium  praedicans  XXV  annis  ejusdem 
urbis  episcopus  perseverat . ' '  Now,  reckoning  back  the  twenty- 
five  years  of  S.  Peter's  supervision  of  the  Roman  Church 
would  bring  S.  Peter's  first  presence  in  Rome  to  A.D.  42-3  ; 
for  Jerome  tells  us  how  "  Post  Petrum  primus  Romanam 
ecclesiam  tenuit  Linus,"  and  the  early  catalogues  of  the 
Roman  Bishops — the  Eusebian  (Armenian  version),  the  cata 
logue  of  Jerome,  and  the  catalogue  called  the  Liberian — give  the 
date  of  Linus'  accession  respectively  as  A.D.  66,  A.D.  68,  A.D.  67. 

The  early  lists  or  catalogues  of  the  Bishops  of  Rome, 
just  casually  referred  to,  are  another  important  and  weighty 
witness  to  the  ancient  and  generally  received  tradition  of  the 
early  visit  and  prolonged  presence  of  S.  Peter  at  Rome. 


The  first  of  these  in  the  middle  of  the  second  century  was 
drawn  up,  as  far  as  Eleutherius,  A.D.  177-90  by  Hegesippus,  a 
Hebrew  Christian.  Eusebius  is  our  authority  for  this.  This 
list,  however,  has  not  come  down  to  us.  It  is,  however,  prob 
able  that  it  was  the  basis,  as  far  as  it  went,  of  the  list  drawrn 
up  by  Irenaeus  circa  A.D.  180-90.  This  is  the  earliest 
catalogue  of  the  Roman  Bishops  which  we  possess.  Irenaeus, 
after  stating  that  the  Roman  Church  was  founded  by  the 
Apostles  Peter  and  Paul,  adds  that  they  entrusted  the  office 
of  the  Episcopate  to  Linus. 

In  the  Armenian  version  of  the  Chronicles  of  Eusebius, 
the  only  version  in  which  we  possess  this  Eusebian  Chronicle, 
Peter  appears  at  the  head  of  the  list  of  Roman  Bishops,  and 
twenty  years  is  given  as  the  duration  of  his  government  of  the 
Church.  Linus  is  stated  to  have  been  his  successor.  In  the 
list  of  S.  Jerome  a  similar  order  is  preserved — with  the  slight 
difference  of  twenty-five  years  instead  of  twenty  as  the  dura 
tion  of  S.  Peter's  rule.  The  deduction  which  naturally  follows 
these  entries  in  the  two  lists  has  been  already  suggested.  The 
Liberian  Catalogue,  compiled  circa  A.D.  354,  places  S.  Peter 
at  the  head  of  the  Roman  Bishops — giving  twenty-five  years 
as  the  duration  of  his  government.  Linus  follows  here. 

The  Liberian  Catalogue  was  the  basis  of  the  great  historical 
work  now  generally  known  as  the  "  Liber  Pontificalis,"  which 
in  its  notices  of  the  early  Popes  embodies  the  whole  of  the 
Liberian  Catalogue — only  giving  fresh  details.  The  "  Liber 
Pontificalis  "  in  its  first  portion  in  its  present  form  is  traced 
back  to  the  earlier  years  of  the  sixth  century. 

The  traditional  notices  of  the  early  presence  of  S.  Peter  in 
Rome  are  many  and  various.  Taken  by  themselves  they 
are,  no  doubt,  not  convincing — some  of  them  ranking  as  purely 
legendary — though  we  recognize  even  in  these  "  purely 
legendary "  notices  an  historical  foundation ;  but  taken 
together  they  constitute  an  argument  of  no  little  weight. 

Among  the  "  purely  legendary  "  we  have  touched  upon  the 
memories  which  hang  round  the  house  of  Pudens,  and  the 
church  which  in  very  early  times  arose  on  its  site.1  Of  far 

1  On  these  memories  which  belong  to  the  house  of  Pudens  and  his  family 
see  pp.  262-270. 


greater  historical  value  are  the  memories  which  belong  to 
the  Catacomb  of  Priscilla,  memories  which  recent  discoveries 
in  that  most  ancient  cemetery  go  far  to  lift  many  of  the  old 
traditions  into  the  realm  of  serious  history. 

The  historical  fact  of  the  burial  (depositid)  of  some  ten 
or  eleven  of  the  first  Bishops  round  the  sacred  tomb  of  the 
Apostle  S.  Peter  (juxla  corpus  beati  Petri  in  Vaticano),  gives 
additional  colour  to  the  tradition  of  the  immemorial  reverence 
which  from  the  earliest  times  of  the  Church  of  Rome  encircles 
the  memory  of  S.  Peter. 

From  the  third  century  onward  we  find  the  Roman  Bishops 
claiming  as  their  proudest  title  to  honour  their  position  as 
successors  of  S.  Peter.  In  all  the  controversies  which  subse 
quently  arose  between  Rome  and  the  East  this  position  was 
never  questioned.  Duchesne,  in  his  last  great  work,1  ever 
careful  and  scholarly,  does  not  hesitate  to  term  the  "  Church 
of  Rome "  (he  is  dwelling  on  its  historical  aspect)  the 
"  Church  of  S.  Peter." 

This  study  on  the  work  of  S.  Peter  in  the  matter  of  laying 
the  early  stories  of  the  great  Church  which  after  the  fall  of 
Jerusalem  in  A.D.  70  indisputably  became  the  metropolis  of 
Christianity,  has  been  necessarily  somewhat  long — the  ques 
tion  is  one  of  the  highest  importance  to  the  historian  of 
ecclesiastical  history.  Was  this  lofty  claim  of  the  long  line  of 
Bishops  of  Rome  to  be  the  successors  of  S.  Peter,  ever  one  of 
their  chief  titles  to  honour,  based  on  historic  evidence,  or  was 
it  simply  an  invention  of  a  later  age  ? 

All  serious  historians  now  are  agreed  that  S.  Peter  taught 
in  Rome,  wrote  his  Epistle  from  Rome,  and  subsequently 
suffered  martyrdom  there. 

But  historians,  as  we  have  stated,  are  not  agreed  upon  the 
date  of  his  first  appearance  in  the  queen  city.  Now  the  sum 
of  the  evidence  massed  together  in  the  foregoing  brief  study, 
leads  to  the  indisputable  conclusion  that  the  date  of  his  coming 
to  Rome  must  be  placed  very  early  in  the  story  of  Christianity, 
somewhere  about  A.D.  41-3. 

Everything  points  to  this  conclusion.  How  could  Peter 
be,  with  any  accuracy,  styled  the  "  Founder  of  the  Church  of 

1  Histoire  ancienne  de  l'£glise,  vol.  i.  p.  61  (4th  edition,  1908). 


Rome  "  if  he  never  appeared  in  Rome  before  A.D.  64  ?  Long 
before  this  date  the  Church  of  the  metropolis  had  been 
"  founded,"  had  had  time  to  become  a  large  and  flourishing 
Christian  community.  This  estimate  of  the  signal  importance 
of  the  Church  of  Rome  is  based  on  various  testimonies,  among 
which  may  be  ranked  the  long  list  of  salutations  in  S.  Paul's 
Epistle  to  the  Romans,  written  circa  A.D.  58. 

All  the  various  notices  of  the  leading  Christian  writers 
of  the  first  and  second  centuries  in  all  lands  carefully  style 
him  as  such.  Paul,  it  is  true,  in  most,  not  in  all  these  early 
writings,  is  associated  with  him  as  a  joint  founder  :  this  in  a 
real  sense  can  also  be  understood  ;  for  although  Paul  came  at  a 
later  date  to  Rome  and  dwelt  there  some  two  years,  the  presence 
of  one  of  the  greatest  of  the  early  Christian  teachers  would 
surely  add  enormously  to  the  stability  of  the  foundations 
laid  years  before.  The  teaching  of  the  great  Apostle  of  the 
Gentiles,  continued  for  two  years,  was,  of  course,  a  very  im 
portant  factor  in  the  "  foundation  work,"  and  was  evidently 
always  reckoned  as  such. 

But  even  then,  as  we  have  seen,  while  the  two  apostles 
are  frequently  joined  together  as  founders  in  the  writings  of 
the  early  Christian  teachers,  in  several  notable  instances 
Peter's  work  is  especially  dwelt  upon  by  them. 

Then  again  in  the  traditional  "  Memories  "  preserved  to 
us,  some  of  them  of  the  highest  historical  value,  it  is  Peter, 
not  Paul,  who  is  ever  the  principal  figure.  Paul  rarely,  if 
ever,  appears  in  them.  Great  though  undoubtedly  Paul  was 
as  a  teacher  of  the  Christian  mysteries  and  as  an  expounder 
of  Christian  doctrine,  it  is  emphatically  Peter,  not  Paul,  who 
lives  in  the  "  memories  "  ui  tne  Roman  Christian  community. 

The  place  which  the  two  basilicas  of  S.  Peter  and  S.  Paul 
on  the  Vatican  Hill  and  on  the  Ostian  Way  have  ever  occupied 
in  the  minds  and  hearts  not  only  of  the  Roman  people,  but  of 
all  the  innumerable  pilgrims  in  all  ages  to  the  sacred  shrines  of 
Rome,  seems  accurately  to  measure  the  respective  places  which 
the  two  apostles  hold  in  the  estimate  of  the  Roman  Church. 

The  comparative  neglect  of  S.  Paul's  basilica  in  Rome 
vhen  measured  with  the  undying  reverence  shown  to,  and 
with  the  enormous  pains  and  cost  bestowed  on  the  sister 



basilica  of  S.  Peter,  is  due  not  to  any  want  of  reverence  or 
respect  for  the  noble  Apostle  of  the  Gentiles,  but  solely  because 
Rome  and  the  pilgrims  to  Rome  were  deeply  conscious  of 
the  special  debt  of  Rome  to  S.  Peter,  who  was  evidently  the 
real  founder  of  the  mighty  Church  of  the  capital. 

The  writer  of  this  work  is  fully  conscious  that  the  con 
clusion  to  which  he  has  come  after  massing  together  all  the 
available  evidence,  is  not  the  usual  conclusion  arrived  at  by 
one  great  and  influential  school  of  thought  in  our  midst ; 
nor  does  it  accord  with  the  conclusion  of  that  eminently  just 
scholar  Bishop  Light  foot,  who  while  positively  affirming  the 
presence  of  S.  Peter  in  Rome,  whence,  as  he  allows,  he  wrote 
his  First  Epistle,  and  where  through  pain  and  agony  he  passed 
to  his  longed-for  rest  in  his  Master's  Paradise,  yet  cannot 
accept  the  tradition  of  his  early  presence  in  the  metropolis. 

The  writer  of  this  study  has  no  doubt  whatever  that 
the  teaching  of  the  vast  majority  of  the  Roman  Catholic 
writers  on  this  point  is  strictly  accurate,  and  that  S.  Peter  at 
a  comparatively  early  date,  probably  somewhere  about  the 
year  of  grace  42-3,  came  to  Rome  confirmed  in  the  faith — 
taught — strengthened  with  his  own  blessed  memories  of  his 
adored  Master — the  little  band  of  Christians  already  dwelling  in 
the  capital  of  the  Empire.  Under  his  pious  training  the  little 
band,  in  the  six,  seven,  or  eight  years  of  his  residence  in  their 
midst,  became  the  strong  nucleus  of  the  powerful- Church  of 

Then,  most  probably,  he  left  Rome  when  the  decree  of 
the  Emperor  Claudius,  A.D.  49,  was  promulgated  :  the  decree 
which  was  the  result  of  the  disturbances  among  the  turbu 
lent  Jewish  colony, — disturbances  no  doubt  owing  to  bitter 
and  relentless  opposition  to  the  fast  spreading  of  the  Chris 
tian  faith  in  their  midst.  As  Suetonius  (Claudius,  25)  tersely 
but  clearly  tells  us  :  "  Judaeos,  impulsore  Christ o  assidue 
tumult uantes  Roma  expulit." 

From  the  year  49,  when  he  left  the  Queen  City,  S.  Peter 
apparently  was  absent  from  the  Church  in  which  for  some 
seven  or  eight  years  he  had  laboured  so  well  and  so  successfully, 
continuing  his  work,  however,  in  other  lands.  Then  in  A.D. 
63-4  he  returned,  resumed  his  Roman  work,  wrote  the  First 


Epistle    which    bears    his    name,    and    eventually   suffered 

This  conclusion,  of  such  deep  importance  in  early  ecclesi 
astical  history,  has  been  arrived  at — as  the  student  of  the 
foregoing  pages  will  see — from  no  one  statement,  from  no 
whole  class,  so  to  speak,  of  evidences,  but  from  the  cumulative 
evidence  afforded  by  the  massing  together  the  statements  of 
early  writers,  the  testimony  of  the  catacombs,  the  witness  of 
tradition,  and  the  voice  of  what  may  almost  be  accurately 
termed  immemorial  history.1 

1  It  will  be  noticed  that  an  interesting  hypothesis  dwelt  on  by  Allard 
(Histoire  des  Persecutions,  vol.  i.)  and  by  other  writers  has  not  been  quoted 
among  the  foregoing  testimonies.  It  is  curious  and  deserving  of  notice,  but 
it  is  at  best  only  an  ingenious  supposition. 

These  scholars  suggest  that  when  S.  Peter,  after  his  deliverance  through 
the  interference  of  an  angel  guide,  escaped  from  the  prison  of  Herod  Antipas 
and  went  to  another  place  (Acts  xii.  17),  that  the  "  other  place  "  so  mysteriously 
and  strangely  alluded  to  by  the  writer  of  the  "  Acts  "  signified  Rome. 

A  Roman  tradition  handed  down  to  us  through  the  medium  of  early  Christian 
art,  curiously  seems  to  connect  the  angelic  deliverance  of  the  Apostle  S.  Peter 
with  Rome.  On  some  twenty  of  the  early  Christian  sarcophagi  preserved  in  the 
Lateran  Museum,  the  arrest  and  imprisonment  of  S.  Peter  by  the  soldiers  of 
Herod  Antipas  form  the  subject  of  the  sculpture.  Why,  pertinently  ask  these 
writers,  was  this  special  scene  in  the  life  of  S.  Peter  selected  as  the  subject 
graved  on  so  many  of  these  ancient  coffins  of  the  Roman  Christian  dead?  They 
reply — The  connexion  which  traditionally  existed  between  this  imprisonment 
and  the  angelic  deliverance  with  the  first  coming  of  the  apostle  to  Rome. 

Bishop  Lightfoot  somewhat  strangely  remarks  (Clement  of  Rome,  vol.  ii. 
p.  491):  "  S.  Paul  could  not  have  written  as  he  writes  to  the  Romans  (i.  n, 
xv.  20-24)  if  they  had  received  even  a  short  visit  from  an  apostle,  more 
especially  if  that  apostle  were  S.  Peter." 

It  is  difficult  to  see  how  he  makes  this  deduction  from  S.  Paul's  words 
in  the  passages  in  question.  In  the  first  passage  (Rom.  i.  n),  S.  Paul,  after 
addressing  the  Roman  Christians,  and  thanking  God  that  their  faith  is  spoken 
of  throughout  the  whole  world,  adds  that  he  longs  to  see  these  Christians, 
that  he  may  impart  to  them  some  spiritual  gift  to  the  end  that  they  may  be 
established.  Then  he  explains  or,  as  it  were,  recalls  what  he  has  said,  that 
he  might  not  seem  to  think  them  insufficiently  instructed  or  established  in  the 
faith,  and  therefore  in  the  words  which  follow  closely,  "  that  I  may  be  com 
forted  together  with  you  by  the  mutual  faith  both  of  you  and  me,"  turns 
the  end  of  his  coming  to  them  to  their  mutual  rejoicing  in  one  another's 
faith,  when  he  and  they  shall  come  to  know  one  another. 

In  the  second  passage  (Rom.  xv.  20-24),  S.  Paul  plainly  states  that  his 
work  had  been  to  preach  the  gospel  "not  where  Christ  was  named,  lest  he 
should  build  upon  another  man's  foundation  " — that  is,  not  where  Christ 
was  preached  by  another  before  me. 


Then  he  adds,  that  he  considered  the  preaching  of  Christ  where  he  had 
not  been  named  the  most  needful  work  ;  he  therefore  declined  going  to  Rome, 
where  was  a  Church  already  planted  ;  but  now,  having  no  more  Churches 
to  plant  in  the  regions  where  he  was  sojourning,  he  signifies  his  resolution  of 
visiting  the  Roman  Church. 

Any  deduction  that  could  be  drawn  from  these  two  passages  in  S.  Paul's 
Epistle  to  the  Romans,  would  seem  to  be  exactly  the  contrary  to  that  suggested 
by  Lightfoot. 



THE  Roman  Church  in  the  year  of   grace  61  was    evi 
dently  already  a  powerful  and  influential  congregation  : 
everything  points  to  this  conclusion  :    its  traditions, 
we  might  even  say  its  history,  and,  above  all,  the  notices 
contained  in  S.  Paul's  Epistle  to  the  Romans  written  not 
later  than  A.D.  58. 

Virtually  alone  among  the  Churches  of  the  first  thirty 
years  of  Christianity  does  S.  Paul  give  to  this  congregation 
unstinting,  unqualified  praise — very  different  to  his  words 
addressed  to  the  Church  in  Corinth  in  both  of  his  Epistles  to 
that  notable  Christian  centre,  or  to  the  Galatian  congregation 
in  his  letter  to  the  Church  of  that  province ;  or  even  to  the 
Thessalonians,  the  Church  which  he  loved  well,  where  re 
proach  and  grave  warnings  are  mingled  with  and  colour  his 
loving  words. 

But  to  the  Church  of  Rome,  in  which  in  its  many  early 
years  of  struggle  and  combat  he  bore  no  part  whatever, 
his  praise  is  quite  unmingled  with  rebuke  or  warning.  As 
regards  this  congregation  (Rom.  i.  8),  Paul  thanks  God  for  them 
all  that  their  faith  is  spoken  of  throughout  the  whole  world. 
In  the  concluding  chapter  of  the  Epistle,  some  twenty-five 
specially  distinguished  members  of  the  Roman  congregation 
are  saluted  by  name,  though  it  by  no  means  follows  that 
S.  Paul  was  personally  acquainted  with  all  of  those  who  were 
named  by  him. 

About  three  years  after  writing  his  famous  letter  to  the 
Romans, — just  referred  to, — Paul  came  as  a  prisoner  to  the 


capital  city.  But  although  a  prisoner  awaiting  a  public 
trial,  the  imperial  government  gave  him  free  liberty  to  receive 
in  his  own  hired  house  members  of  the  Christian  Church,  and 
indeed  any  who  chose  to  come  and  listen  to  his  teaching  ;  and 
this  liberty  of  free  access  to  him  was  continued  all  through 
the  two  years  of  his  waiting  for  the  public  trial.  The  words 
of  the  "  Acts  of  the  Apostles,"  a  writing  universally  received 
as  authentic,  are  singularly  definite  here  :  "  And  Paul  dwelt 
two  whole  years  in  his  own  hired  house  (in  Rome),  and  received 
all  that  came  unto  him,  preaching  the  kingdom  of  God,  and 
teaching  those  things  which  concern  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ,  with 
all  confidence,  no  man  forbidding  him  "  (Acts  xxviii.  30-31). 

It  was  during  these  two  years  of  the  imprisonment  that 
the  great  teacher  justified  his  subsequent  title,  accorded  him 
by  so  many  of  the  early  Christian  writers,  of  joint  founder  with 
S.  Peter  of  the  Roman  Church.  The  foundations  of  the 
Church  of  the  metropolis  we  believe  certainly  to  have  been 
laid  by  another  leading  member  of  the  apostolic  band,  S.  Peter.1 
But  S.  Paul's  share  in  strengthening  and  in  building  up  this 
Church,  the  most  important  congregation  in  the  first  days  of 
Christianity,  was  without  doubt  very  great. 

At  a  very  early  period,  certainly  after  the  fall  of  Jerusalem 
and  the  destruction  of  the  Temple,  Rome  became  the  acknow 
ledged  centre  and  the  metropolis  of  Christendom.  The  great 
world-capital  was  the  meeting-place  of  the  followers  of  the 
Name  from  all  lands.  Thither,  too,  naturally  flocked  the 
teachers  of  the  principal  heresies  in  doctrinal  truth  which  very 
soon  sprang  up  among  Christian  converts.  Under  these 
conditions  something  more,  in  such  a  centre  as  Rome,  was 
impei  atively  needed  than  the  simple  direct  Gospel  teaching, 
however  fervid  :  something  additional  to  the  recital  of  the  won 
drous  Gospel  story  as  told  by  S.  Peter  and  repeated  possibly 
verbatim  by  his  disciple  S.  Mark.  A  deeper  and  fuller  in 
struction  was  surely  required  in  such  a  centre  as  Rome  quickly 
became.  Men  would  ask,  Who  and  what  was  the  Divine 
Founder  of  the  religion, — what  was  His  relation  to  the  Father, 
what  to  the  angel-world  ?  What  was  known  of  His  pre- 

1  See  above,  pp.  7-12,  where  the  question  of  the  foundation  of  the  Church 
in  Rome  is  fully  discussed. 


existence  ?  These  and  such-like  questions  would  speedily  press 
for  a  reply  in  such  a  cosmopolitan  centre  as  imperial  Rome. 
Inspired  teaching  bearing  on  such  points  as  these  required  to 
be  welded  into  the  original  foundation  stories  of  the  leading 
Church  which  Rome  speedily  became,  and  this  was  supplied 
by  the  great  master  S.  Paul,  to  whom  the  Holy  Ghost  had 
vouchsafed  what  may  be  justly  termed  a  double  portion  of 
the  Spirit.  The  Christology  of  Paul,  to  use  a  later  theological 
term,  was,  in  view  of  all  that  was  about  to  come  to  pass  in  the 
immediate  future,  a  most  necessary  part  of  the  equipment  of 
the  Church  of  God  in  Rome. 

The  keynote  of  the  famous  master's  teaching  during  those 
two  years  of  his  Roman  imprisonment  may  be  doubtless 
found  in  the  letters  written  by  him  at  that  time.  Three  of 
these,  the  "  Ephesian,"  "  Colossian,"  and  "  Philippian " 
Epistles,  were  emphatically  massive  expositions  of  doctrine— 
especially  that  addressed  to  the  Colossians.  From  these  we 
can  gather  what  was  the  principal  subject-matter  of  the  Pauline 
teaching  at  Rome.  His  thoughts  were  largely  taken  up  with 
the  great  doctrinal  questions  bearing  on  the  person  of  the 
Founder  of  Christianity. 

We  will  quote  one  or  two  passages  from  the  great  doctrinal 
Epistle  to  the  Colossians  as  examples  of  the  Pauline  teaching 
at  this  juncture  of  his  life  when  he  was  engaged  in  building  up 
the  Roman  Church,  and  furnishing  it  with  an  arsenal  of 
weapons  which  would  soon  be  needed  in  their  life  and  death 
contest  with  the  dangerous  heresies l  which  so  soon  made 
their  appearance  in  the  city  which  was  at  once  the  metropolis 
of  the  Church  and  the  Empire. 

"The  Father,  .  .  .  who  hath  translated  us  into  the  kingdom 
of  His  dear  Son,  .  .  .  who  is  the  image  of  the  invisible  God, 
the  first-born  of  every  creature  :  for  by  Him  were  all  things 
created,  that  are  in  heaven,  and  that  are  in  earth,  visible  and 
invisible,  whether  they  be  thrones,  or  dominions,  or  princi 
palities,  or  powers  :  all  things  were  created  by  Him,  and  for 
Him  :  and  He  is  before  all  things,  and  by  Him  all  things 
consist.  And  He  is  the  head  of  the  body,  the  Church  :  who 

1  Such  as  the  heresies  of  the  Nicolaitans  and  Cerinthians,  and  certain  of 
the  false  Docetic  teachings. 


is  the  beginning,  the  first-born  from  the  dead  ;  that  in  all  things 
he  might  have  the  pre-eminence.  For  it  pleased  the  Father 
that  in  Him  should  all  fulness  dwell ;  and,  having  made  peace 
through  the  blood  of  His  Cross,  by  Him  to  reconcile  all  things 
unto  Himself  ;  by  Him  (I  say) ,  whether  they  be  things  in 
earth,  or  things  in  heaven  "  (Col.  i.  12-20). 

And  once  more  :  "  Beware  lest  any  man  spoil  you  through 
philosophy  and  vain  deceit,  after  the  tradition  of  men,  .  .  . 
and  not  after  Christ.  For  in  Him  dwelleth  all  the  fullness  of 
the  Godhead  bodily.  And  ye  are  complete  in  Him,  which  is  the 
head  of  all  principality  and  power." 

Preaching  on  such  texts,  which  contain  those  tremendous 
truths  which  just  at  this  time  he  embodied  in  his  Colossian 
letter,  did  S.  Paul  lay  the  foundation  of  the  "  Christ ology  "  of 
the  Church  of  Rome.  With  justice,  then,  was  he  ranked  by 
the  early  Christian  writers  as  one  of  the  founders  of  the  Roman 
Church,  for  he  was  without  doubt  the  principal  teacher  of  the 
famous  congregation  in  the  all-important  doctrinal  truths 
bearing  on  the  person  and  office  of  Jesus  Christ. 

S.  Peter,  whose  yet  earlier  work  at  Rome,  we  believe, 
stretching  over  some  eight  or  nine  years,  we  have  already 
dwelt  on,  was  evidently  absent  from  the  capital  when  S.  Paul 
in  A.D.  58  wrote  his  famous  Letter  to  the  Romans  ;  nor  had 
he  returned  in  A.D.  61,  when  Paul  was  brought  to  the  metropolis 
as  a  prisoner  ;  but  that  he  returned  to  Rome  somewhere  about 
A.D.  63-4  is  fairly  certain. 



FOR  a  little  more  than  thirty  years,  dating  back  to  the 
Resurrection  morning,  with  the  exception  of  the  oc 
casion  of  that  temporary  and  partial  banishment  of  the 
Jews  and  Christians  from  Rome  in  the  days  of  the  Emperor 
Claudius,  had  the  Christian  propaganda  gone  on  apparently 
unnoticed,  certainly  unheeded  by  the  imperial  government. 

The  banishment  decree  of  Claudius,  the  outcome  of  a  local 
disturbance  in  the  Jewish  quarter  of  the  capital,  was  after 
a  brief  interval  apparently  rescinded,  or  at  least  ignored  by 
the  ruling  powers  ;  but  in  the  middle  of  the  year  64,  only  a 
few  months  after  S.  Paul's  long-delayed  trial  and  acquittal 
and  subsequent  departure  from  Rome,  a  startling  event 
happened  which  brought  the  Christians  into  a  sad  notoriety, 
and  put  an  end  to  the  attitude  of  contemptuous  indifference 
with  which  they  had  been  generally  regarded  by  the  magistrates 
both  in  the  provinces  and  in  the  capital. 

A  terrible  and  unlooked  for  calamity  reduced  Rome  to  a 
state  of  mourning  and  desolation.  The  igth  July,  A.D.  64,— 
the  date  of  the  commencement  of  the  desolating  fire, — was 
long  remembered.  It  broke  out  in  the  shops  which  clustered 
round  the  great  Circus  ;  a  strong  summer  wind  fanned  the 
flames,  which  soon  became  uncontrollable.  The  narrow 
streets  of  the  old  quarter  and  the  somewhat  crumbling  build 
ings  fed  the  fire,  which  raged  for  some  nine  days,  destroying 
many  of  the  ancient  historic  buildings.  Thousands  of  the 
poorer  inhabitants  were  rendered  homeless  and  penniless. 
At  that  period  Rome  was  divided  into  fourteen  regions  or 

26          THE  CHURCH  IN  ROME  AFTER  A.D.  64 

quarters  ;  of  these  three  were  entirely  consumed  ;  seven  more 
were  rendered  uninhabitable  by  the  fierce  fire  ;  only  four 
were  left  really  unharmed  by  the  desolating  calamity. 

The  passions  of  the  mob,  ever  quickly  aroused,  were  directed 
in  the  first  instance  against  the  Emperor  Nero,  who  was  accused 
—probably  quite  wrongfully — of  being  the  incendiary  :  there 
is  indeed  a  long,  a  mournful  chronicle  of  evil  deeds  registered 
against  the  memory  of  this  evil  Emperor  ;  but  that  he  was 
the  guilty  author  of  this  special  outrage  is  in  the  highest  degree 
unlikely.  His  wild  life,  his  cruelties,  his  ungovernable  passions, 
his  insanity, — for  no  reader  of  history  can  doubt  that  in  his 
case  the  sickness  which  so  often  affects  an  uncontrolled 
despot  had  with  Nero  resulted  in  insanity, — indeed,  all  his 
works  and  days,  gave  colour  to  the  monstrous  and  absurd 
charges  which  a  fickle  and  angry  mob  brought  against  the  once 
strangely  popular  tyrant. 

All  kinds  of  wild  stories  connected  with  the  fire  were  circu 
lated  ;  he  had  no  doubt  many  remorseless  enemies.  Men 
said,  Nero  sitting  high  on  one  of  the  towers  of  Rome,  watched 
with  fiendish  joy  and  exultation  the  progress  of  the  devouring 
flames,  and  as  Rome  burned  before  his  eyes,  played  upon  his 
lyre  and  sung  a  hymn  of  his  own  composition,  for  he  imagined 
himself  a  poet,  in  which  he  compared  the  burning  of  his  Rome 
with  the  ruin  of  Troy. 

Another  legend  was  current,  averring  that  the  slaves  of 
the  Emperor's  household  had  been  seen  fanning  the  flames 
in  their  desolating  course  ;  another  rumour  was  spread  abroad 
which  whispered  that  the  mad  and  wicked  Emperor  desired  to 
see  Old  Rome,  with  its  narrow  and  crowded  streets,  destroyed, 
that  he  might  be  able  to  rebuild  it  on  a  new  and  stately  scale, 
and  thus,  regardless  of  the  immemorial  traditions  of  the  ancient 
city,  to  render  his  name  immortal  through  this  notable  and 
magnificent  work. 

At  all  events  these  improbable  stories  more  or  less  gained 
credence  in  many  quarters,  and  the  Emperor  found  himself 
execrated  by  thousands  of  thoughtless  men  and  women  who 
had  suffered  the  loss  of  their  all  in  the  fire,  and  who  were  glad 
to  vent  their  fury  on  one  whom  they  once  admired  and  even 
loved,  though  their  admiration  and  love  had  been  often 

THE  FIRE  OF  ROME,  A.D.  64  27 

mingled  with  that  fierce  envy  with  which   the   people  too 
frequently  view  the  great  and  rich  and  powerful. 

Prompted  by  his  evil  advisers,  among  whom  the  infamous 
Tigellinus  was  the  most  conspicuous,  the  Emperor  in  the  first 
instance  accused  the  Jews  of  being  the  incendiaries  :  curiously 
enough  the  quarter  of  the  city  where  they  mostly  congregated 
had  been  spared  in  the  late  conflagration.  It  was  no  difficult 
task  to  persuade  the  fickle  people  that  the  strange  race  of 
foreigners,  who  hated  Rome  and  Rome's  gods,  had  avenged 
themselves  and  the  wrongs  they  had  suffered  at  the  hands  of 
the  Roman  nation,  by  firing  the  capital  city. 

Up  to  this  time — in  the  eyes  of  most  of  the  Romans — the 
Jew  and  the  Christian  were  one  people  ;  they  considered  that 
if  any  difference  at  all  existed,  it  was  simply  that  the  Christian 
was  a  dissenting  Jew.  Now  apparently,  after  the  burning  of 
Rome,  for  the  first  time  was  any  distinction  made.  It  happened 
on  this  wise  :  the  Jews  had  powerful  friends  in  the  court 
of  the  despotic  Emperor.  Poppaea  the  Empress,  if  not  a 
Jewess,  was  at  least  a  devoted  proselyte  of  the  chosen  race. 
There  is  no  doubt  but  that  her  influence,  backed  up  no  doubt 
by  others  about  her  person  at  the  court,  diverted  the  sus 
picions  which  had  been  awakened,  from  the  Jews  to  the  Chris 
tians.  These,  it  was  pointed  out,  were  no  real  Jews,  but  were 
their  deadly  enemies  ;  they  were  a  hateful  and  hated  sect 
quite  improperly  confounded  with  the  chosen  people.  The 
Christians  were  now  formally  accused  of  being  the  real  authors 
of  the  late  calamity,  and  the  accusation  seems  to  have  been 
generally  popular  among  the  masses  of  the  Roman  population. 
Our  authorities  for  this  popular  hatred — we  may  style  them 
contemporary — are  Tacitus  and  Suetonius  and  the  Christian 
Clement  of  Rome.  The  testimony  of  Pliny  the  Younger, 
who  governed  Bithynia  under  the  Emperor  Trajan,  will  be 
discussed  later. 

Under  the  orders  of  Nero — who  turned  to  his  own  purposes 
the  popular  dislike  to  the  new  sect  of  Jewish  fanatics,  as  they 
generally  were  supposed  to  be — the  Christians  were  sought  for. 
It  turned  out  that  there  was  a  vast  multitude  of  them  in  the 
city,  "  ingens  multitude,"  says  Tacitus  ;  and  Clement  of 
Rome,  the  Christian  bishop  and  writer,  circa  A.D.  96,  also 

28          THE  CHURCH  IN  ROME  AFTER  A.D.  64 

speaks  of  their  great  numbers.  Many  of  the  accused  were 
condemned  on  the  false  charge  of  incendiarism,  to  which  was 
added  an  accusation  far  harder  to  disprove — general  hostility 
to  society,  and  hatred  of  the  world  (odio  generis  humani). 

A  crowd  of  Christians  of  both  sexes  was  condemned  to 
the  wild  beasts.  It  was  arranged  that  they  should  provide 
a  hideous  amusement  for  the  people  who  witnessed  the  games 
just  then  about  to  be  celebrated  in  the  imperial  gardens  on 
the  Vatican  Hill — on  the  very  spot  where  the  glorious  basilica 
of  S.  Peter  now  stands. 

Nero,  anxious  to  restore  his  waning  popularity  with  the 
crowd,  and  to  divert  the  strange  suspicion  which  had  fixed 
upon  him  as  the  incendiary  of  the  great  fire,  was  determined 
that  the  games  should  surpass  any  former  exhibition  of  the 
like  kind  in  the  number  of  victims  provided,  and  in  the  refined 
cruelty  of  the  awful  punishment  to  which  the  sufferers  were 
condemned.  He  had  in  good  truth  an  array  of  victims  for 
his  ghastly  exhibition  such  as  had  never  been  seen  before.  A 
like  exhibition  indeed  was  never  repeated  ;  the  hideousness 
of  it  positively  shocking  the  Roman  populace,  cruel  though 
they  were,  and  passionately  devoted  to  scenic  representations 
which  included  death  and  torture,  crime  and  shame.  Numbers 
of  these  first  Christian  martyrs  were  simply  exposed  to  the 
beasts  ;  others  clothed  in  skins  were  hunted  down  by  fierce 
wild  dogs  ;  others  were  forced  to  play  a  part  in  -infamous 
dramas,  which  ever  closed  with  the  death  of  the  victims  in 
pain  and  agony. 

But  the  closing  scene  was  the  most  shocking.  As  the  night 
fell  on  the  great  show,  as  a  novel  delight  for  the  populace, 
the  Roman  people  being  especially  charmed  with  brilliant 
and  striking  illuminations,  the  outer  ring  of  the  vast  arena 
was  encircled  with  crosses  on  which  a  certain  number  of 
Christians  were  bound,  impaled,  or  nailed.  The  condemned 
were  clothed  in  tunics  steeped  in  pitch  and  in  other  inflam 
mable  matter,  and  then,  horrible  to  relate,  the  crucified  and 
impaled  were  set  on  fire,  and  in  the  lurid  light  of  these  ghastly 
living  torches  the  famous  chariot  races,  in  which  the  wicked 
Emperor  took  a  part,  were  run. 

But  this  was  never  repeated  ;    as  we  have  just  stated, 

THE  FIRE  OF  ROME,  A.D.  64  29 

the  sight  of  the  living  flambeaux,  the  protracted  agony  of  the 
victims,  was  too  dreadful  even  for  that  debased  and  hardened 
Roman  crowd  of  heedless  cruel  spectators  ;  the  illuminations 
of  Nero's  show  were  never  forgotten ;  they  remained  an 
awful  memory,  but  only  a  memory,  even  in  Rome  ! 

There  is  good  reason  to  suppose  that  one  of  the  lookers  on 
at  the  games  of  that  long  day  and  sombre  evening  in  the 
gardens  of  the  Vatican  Hill  was  Seneca,  the  famous  Stoic 
philosopher,  once  the  tutor  and  afterwards  for  a  time  the 
minister  of  Nero.  Seneca  had  retired  from  public  life,  and  in 
two  of  his  letters  written  during  his  retirement  to  his  sick  and 
suffering  friend  Lucilius,  encouraging  him  to  bear  his  distress 
ing  malady  with  brave  patience,  reminds  him  of  the  tortures 
which  were  now  and  again  inflicted  on  the  condemned  ;  in 
vivid  language  picturing  the  fire,  the  chains,  the  worrying 
of  wild  beasts,  the  prison  horrors,  the  cross,  the  tunic  steeped 
in  pitch,  the  rack,  the  red-hot  irons  placed  on  the  quivering 
flesh.  What,  he  asks  his  friend,  are  your  sufferings  compared 
with  sufferings  caused  by  these  tortures  ?  And  yet,  he  adds, 
his  eyes  had  seen  these  things  endured  ;  from  the  sufferer  no 
groan  was  heard — no  cry  for  mercy — nay,  in  the  midst  of  all 
he  had  seen  the  bravely  patient  victims  smile  ! 

Surely  here  the  great  Stoic  was  referring  to  what  he  had 
witnessed  in  Nero's  dread  games  of  the  Vatican  gardens  ; 
no  other  scene  would  furnish  such  a  memory  at  once  weird 
and  pathetic.  The  strange  ineffable  smile  of  the  Christian 
in  pain  and  agony  dying  for  his  God,  had  gone  home 
to  the  heart  of  the  great  scholar  statesman.  Like  many 
another  Roman  citizen  of  his  day  and  time,  Seneca  had  often 
seen  men  die,  but  he  had  never  before  looked  on  any  one  dying 
after  this  fashion  ! 

From  the  days  of  that  ever  memorable  summer  of  the 
year  64  until  Constantine  and  Licinius  signed  the  edict  which 
in  the  name  of  the  Emperors  gave  peace  and  stillness  to  the 
harassed  Church,  A.D.  3i3,froughly  speaking  a  long  period  of 
two  centuries  and  a  half,  the  sword  of  persecution  was  never 
sheathed]  For  practically  from  the  year  64,  the  date  of  the 
famous  games  in  the  Vatican  gardens,  there  was  a  continuous 
persecution  of  those  that  confessed  the  name  of  Christ.  The 


ordinary  number  of  the  ten  persecutions  is  after  all  an  arbitrary 
computation.  The  whole  principle  and  constitution  of  Chris 
tianity  on  examination  were  condemned  by  the  Roman 
government  as  irreconcilably  hostile  to  the  established  order ; 
and  mere  membership  of  the  sect,  if  persisted  in,  was  regarded 
as  treasonable,  and  the  confessors  of  Christianity  became 
liable  to  the  punishment  of  death.  And  this  remained  the 
unvarying,  the  changeless  policy  of  the  Government  of  the 
State,  though  not  always  put  in  force,  until  the  memorable 
edict  of  Constantine,  A.D.  313. 

After  the  terrible  scenes  in  the  games  of  the  Vatican 
gardens,  the  persecution  of  the  Christians  still  continued. 
The  charges  of  incendiarism  were  dropped,  no  one  believing 
that  there  was  any  truth  in  these  allegations  ;  but  in  Rome 
and  in  the  provinces  the  Christian  sect  from  this  time  forward 
was  generally  regarded  as  hostile  to  the  Empire. 

The  accusation  of  being  the  authors  of  the  great  fire  had 
revealed  many  things  in  connexion  with  the  sect ;  the  arrests, 
the  judicial  inquiries,  had  thrown  a  flood  of  new  light  upon 
the  tenets  of  the  new  religion,  had  disclosed  its  large  and 
evidently  rapidly  increasing  numbers.  Most  probably  for 
many  years  were  they  still  confused  with  the  Jews,  but  it 
was  seen  that  the  new  sect  was  something  more  than  a  mere 
body  of  Jewish  dissenters. 

It  was  universally  acknowledged  that  the  Christians  were 
innocent  of  any  connexion  with  the  great  fire  ;  but  something 
else  was  discovered  ;  they  were  a  very  numerous  company 
(ingens  multitude?)  intensely  in  earnest,  opposed  to_  the  State 
religion,  preferring  in  numberless  instances  torture,  confisca 
tion,  death,  rather  than  submit  to  the  State  regulations  in  the 
matter  of  religion. 

For  some  time  before  the  fire  they  had  been  generally 
disliked,  possibly  hated  by  very  many  of  the  Roman  citizens, 
by  men  of  different  ranks,  for  various  reasons ;  by  traders 
who  lost  much  by  their  avoidance  of  all  idolatrous  feasts  ; 
by  pagan  families  who  resented  the  proselytism  which  was 
constantly  taking  place  in  their  homes,  thus  causing  a  breach 
in  the  family  circle  ;  by  priests  and  those  specially  connected 
with  the  network  of  rites  and  ceremonies,  sacrifices  and  offer- 


ings  belonging  to  the  temples  of  the  old  gods.  But,  after  all, 
this  widespread  popular  dislike  to  the  sect  was  not  the  chief 
cause  of  the  steady  persecution  which  set  in  after  the  wild 
and  intemperate  scenes  which  followed  the  great  fire. 

For  the  first  time  the  imperial  government  saw  with  whom 
they  had  to  do.  It  was  the  settled  policy  of  Rome  steadily 
to  repress  and  to  stamp  out  all  organizations,  all  self-governing 
communities,  or  clubs,  as  highly  dangerous  to  the  spirit  of 
imperial  policy  ;  and  as  the  result  of  the  trials  and  inquiries 
which  followed  the  fire  of  Rome,  it  found  in  the  Christian 
community  a  living  embodiment  of  this  tendency  which 
hitherto  Rome  had  succeeded  in  crushing — found  that  in  their 
midst,  in  the  capital  and  in  the  provinces,  an  extra-imperial 
unity  was  fast  growing  up — an  Empire  within  the  Empire. 

In  other  words,  the  whole  of  the  principles  and  the  con 
stitution  of  Christianity  were  considered  as  hostile  to  the 
established  order,  and  if  persisted  in  were  to  be  deemed  treason 
able  ;  thus  after  the  discoveries  made  in  the  course  of  the 
judicial  proceedings  which  were  instituted  after  the  great 
fire,  the  Christians,  even  after  their  innocence  on  the  incendiary 
charge  was  generally  acknowledged,  were  viewed  by  the 
imperial  authorities  as  a  politically  dangerous  society,  being 
an  organized  and  united  body  having  its  ramifications  all  over 
the  Empire  ;  but  after  the  hideous  and  revolting  cruelties  to 
which  so  many  of  them  had  been  subjected  in  the  famous 
Vatican  games,  the  original  charge  made  against  them  came 
universally  to  be  considered  as  an  infamous  device  of  the 
Emperor  Nero  to  divert  public  attention  from  himself,  to 
whom,  although  probably  falsely,  the  guilt  of  causing  the  fire 
was  popularly  attributed. 

Still  there  is  no  doubt  that  although  the  alleged  connexion 
of  the  Christian  sect  with  the  crime  of  incendiarism  seems  to 
have  been  quickly  forgotten,  from  the  year  64  onward  "  the 
persecution  was  continued  as  a  permanent  police  measure, 
under  the  form  of  a  general  prosecution  of  Christians  as  a  sect 
dangerous  to  the  public  safety." 

This,  after  a  lengthened  discussion  of  the  whole  question, 
is  Professor  Ramsay's  conclusion,1  who  considers  it  doubtful 

1  The  Church  in  the  Roman  Empire,  xi.  6. 


if  any  "  edict,"  in  the  strict  sense  of  the  word,  was  promulgated 
by  the  Emperor  Nero ;  and  this  he  deduces  from  the  famous 
correspondence  which  took  place  between  Pliny,  the  governor 
of  Bithynia,  and  the  Emperor  Trajan,  some  fifty  years  after 
the  events  just  related  in  the  days  of  Nero. 

The  words  of  Pliny  when  he  asked  for  more  definite  direc 
tions  from  Trajan  in  the  matter  of  Christian  prosecutions, 
apparently  indicate  that  he  considered  the  Christian  question 
not  as  one  coming  under  some  definite  law,  but  as  a  matter 
of  practical  administration. 

The  more  general  opinion,  however,  held  by  modern  Church 
historians  is  that  an  edict  against  the  Christians  was  pro 
mulgated  by  Nero,  and  that  Domitian  specially  acted  upon 
the  edict  in  the  course  of  the  severe  measures  taken  against 
the  sect  in  the  later  years  of  his  reign  ;  the  words  of  Melito  of 
Sardis  (second  century),  of  Tertullian  (beginning  of  third 
century),  of  the  Christian  historians  writing  in  the  fourth 
century  and  early  years  of  the  fifth  century  Sulpitius  Severus 
and  Lactantius,  being  quoted  in  support  of  this  view. 

The  expressions  used  by  Sulpitius  Severus  here  are  cer 
tainly  very  definite  in  the  matter  of  the  imperial  edict.  This 
historian  founds  his  account  of  the  persecution  under  Nero  on 
"  Tacitus,"  and  then  comments  as  follows  :  "  This  was  the 
beginning  of  severe  measures  against  the  Christians.  After 
wards  the  religion  was  forbidden  by  formal  laws,  and  the 
profession  of  Christianity  was  made  illegal  by  published 
edicts  "  (Chron.  ii.  29). 

It  is  not,  however,  of  great  importance  if  the  profession 
of  Christianity  was  formally  interdicted,  or  if  a  persecution 
was  a  matter  of  practical  administration,  the  profession  of 
the  faith  being  considered  dangerous  to  law  and  order,  and 
deserving  of  death — as  Ramsay  supposes.  The  other  con 
clusion  is  of  far  greater  moment.  It  is  briefly  this  : 

The  first  step  taken  by  the  imperial  government  in  per 
secution  dates  certainly  from  the  reign  of  Nero,  immediately 
after  the  scenes  in  the  Vatican  games,  when  a  Christian  was 
condemned  after  evidence  had  been  given  that  he  or  she 
had  committed  some  act  of  hostility  to  society — no  difficult 
task  to  prove.  Subsequent  to  Nero's  reign,  a  further  develop- 


ment  in  the  persecutions  had  taken  place  (probably  in  the 
time  of  Vespasian),  in  which  all  Christians  were  assumed  to 
have  been  guilty  of  such  hostility  to  society,  and  might  be 
condemned  off-hand  on  confession  of  the  Name.  This  was  the 
state  of  things  when  Pliny  wrote  to  Trajan  for  more  detailed 
instructions.  The  great  number  of  professing  Christians 
alarming  that  upright  and  merciful  official,  he  asked  the 
Emperor  was  he  to  send  them  all  to  death  ? 

The  leading  feature  of  the  instruction  of  the  Emperor 
Trajan  in  reply  to  Pliny's  question,  as  we  shall  presently  see, 
was,  although  Christians  were  to  be  condemned  if  they  con 
fessed  the  Name,  they  were  not  to  be  sought  out.  This 
"  instruction "  held  good  until  the  closing  years  of  the 
Empire,  when  a  sterner  policy  was  pursued ;  while  it  is 
indisputable  that  under  Antoninus  Pius  and  Marcus 
Aurelius,  a  yet  more  hostile  practice  was  adopted  towards  the 

One  great  point  is  clear — that  from  the  days  of  Nero 
the  Christians  were  never  safe  ;  they  lived  as  their  writings 
plainly  show,  even  under  the  rule  of  those  Emperors  who  were, 
comparatively  speaking,  well  disposed  to  them,  with  the 
vision  of  martyrdom  ever  before  their  eyes ;  they  lived,  not 
a  few  of  them,  positively  training  themselves  to  endure  the 
great  trial  as  good  soldiers  of  Jesus  Christ.  During  the  first 
and  second  centuries,  comparatively  speaking,  only  a  few  names 
of  these  martyrs  and  confessors  have  come  down  to  us  :  we 
possess  but  a  few  really  well  authenticated  recitals  (Acts  and 
Passions),  but  these  names  and  stories  do  not  read  like  excep 
tional  cases ; x  irresistibly  the  grave  truth  forces  itself  upon  us, 
that  there  were  many  heroes  and  heroines  whose  names  have 
not  been  preserved — whose  stories  have  not  been  recorded. 

The  sword  of  persecution  ever  hung  over  the  heads  of 
the  members  of  the  Christian  flocks — ready  to  fall  at  any 
moment.  The  stern  instructions,  modified  though  they 
were  by  the  kindly  policy  of  some  of  the  rulers  of  the  State, 
were  never  abrogated,  never  forgotten  ;  they  were  sus 
ceptible,  it  is  true,  of  a  gentler  interpretation  than  the  harsh 
terms  in  which  they  were  couched  at  first  seemed  to  warrant, 

1  This  comment  cannot  be  pressed  too  strongly. 

34          THE  CHURCH  IN  ROME  AFTER  A.D.  64 

but  these  interpretations  constantly  varied  according  to 
the  policy  of  the  provincial  magistrate  and  the  tone  for  the 
moment  of  the  reigning  Emperor ;  but  we  must  never  think 
of  the  spirit  of  persecution  really  slumbering  even  for  one 
short  year. 



IT  has  been  asked,  How  comes  it  that  for  much  of  the 
first  and  second  centuries  there  is  a  remarkable  silence 
respecting  these  persecutions  which  we  are  persuaded 
harassed  the  Christian  congregations  in  the  provinces  as  in  the 
great  metropolis  ?  The  answer  here  is  not  difficult  to  find. 

The  pagan  writers  of  these  centuries  held  the  Christian 
sect  in  deep  contempt ; l  they  would  never  think  the  punish 
ments  dealt  out  to  a  number  of  law-breakers  and  wild  fanatics 
worthy  of  chronicling  ;  the  mere  loss  of  life  in  that  age,  so 
accustomed  to  wholesale  destruction  of  human  beings,  would 
not  strike  them  as  a  notable  incident  in  any  year. 

While  as  regards  Christian  records,  the  practice  of  cele 
brating  the  anniversary  days  of  even  famous  martyrs  and 
confessors  only  began  in  Rome  far  on  in  the  third  century. 

But,  as  we  shall  see,  although  we  possess  no  Christian 
records  definitely  telling  us  of  any  special  persecution  between 
the  times  of  Nero  and  the  later  years  of  Domitian,  the  pages 
of  the  undoubtedly  genuine  Christian  writings  of  very  early 
date,  from  which  we  shall  presently  quote,  were  unmistakably 
all  written  under  the  shadow  of  a  restless  relentless  hostility 
on  the  part  of  the  Roman  government  towards  the  Christian 
sect.  The  followers  of  Jesus  we  see  ever  lived  under  the 
shadow  of  persecution. 

Never  safe  for  a  single  day  was  the  life  of  one  who  believed 
in  the  Name ;  his  life  and  the  life  of  his  dear  ones  were  never 
for  an  instant  secure :  he  and  his  family  were  at  the  mercy 
of  every  enemy,  open  and  secret.  Confiscation,  degradation 

1  It  is  this  which  makes  the  vivid  picture  which  the  younger  Pliny,  in  his 
Letter  to  Trajan,  paints  of  Christian  life  and  influence  in  a  great  province  so 


36          THE  CHURCH  IN  ROME  AFTER  A.D.  64 

from  rank  and  position,  banishment,  imprisonment,  torture, 
death,  were  ever  threatening  him.  A  hard,  stern  combat, 
indeed,  was  the  daily  life  of  every  Christian  disciple.  Many 
came  out  as  victors  from  the  terrible  trial ;  this  we  learn 
from  such  writings  as  the  Shepherd  of  Hernias,  but  some, 
alas  !  we  learn  from  that  same  vivid  and  truthful  picture  of 
Hermas,  flinched  and  played  the  traitor  when  the  hour  of 
decision  between  Christ  and  the  pagan  gods  struck,  as  it 
often,  very  often,  did  in  the  so-called  quiet  days  of  the  Flavian 

But  it  is  only  from  the  general  character  and  spirit  of 
the  early  Christian  writers  that  we  gather  this  ;  it  is  only 
from  the  allusions  scattered  up  and  down  these  striking  and 
pathetic  pages,  which  after  all  had  other  and  nobler  work  before 
them  than  to  record  the  many  sufferings  and  martyrdoms 
of  the  brethren,  that  we  learn  what  was  the  character  of  the 
hard  life  the  followers  of  Jesus  had  to  lead.  So  far  from  exag 
gerating,  these  writers  give  a  very  imperfect  account  of  the 
sufferings  of  that  period. 

But  in  spite  of  this  dark  shadow  of  danger  under  which  the 
Christian  always  lived,  a  cloud  which  for  two  hundred  and  fifty 
years  never  really  lifted ;  in  spite  of  popular  dislike  and  of  public 
condemnation, — the  numbers  of  the  persecuted  sect  multiplied 
with  startling  rapidity  in  all  lands,  among  all  the  various 
peoples  massed  together  under  the  rule  of  the  Empire,  and 
called  by  the  name  of  Romans.  Their  great  number  attracted 
the  attention  of  pagan  writers  such  as  Tacitus,  writing  of  the 
martyrdoms  of  A.D.  64  ;  of  Pliny,  speaking  of  what  he  witnessed 
in  A.D.  112  ;  of  Christian  writers  like  Tertullian,  giving  a  picture 
of  the  sect  at  the  end  of  the  second  century. 

In  the  middle  years  of  this  second  century,  only  a  little 
more  than  a  hundred  years  after  the  Resurrection  morning, 
when  the  Antonines  were  reigning,  we  know  that  there  were 
large  congregations  in  Spain  and  Gaul,  in  Germany,  in  North 
Africa,  in  Egypt  and  in  Syria,  besides  the  great  and  powerful 
Church  in  Rome. 

All  that  we  learn  of  the  busy,  earnest,  strenuous  life  of  these 
early  Christian  communities,  of  their  noble  charities,  of  their 
active  propaganda,  of  their  grave  and  successful  contentions 


with  the  heretical  teachers  who  successively  arose  in  their 
midst,  makes  it  hard  to  believe  that  they  were  ever  living, 
as  it  were,  under  the  very  shadow  of  persecution  which  might 
burst  upon  them  at  any  moment ;  and  yet  well-nigh  all  the 
writings  of  these  early  days  are  coloured  with  these  anticipa 
tions  of  torture,  confiscation,  imprisonment, and  death, — a  death 
of  pain  and  agony.  The  Apocalypse  refers  to  these  things 
again  and  again — Clement  of  Rome  in  his  grave  and  measured 
Epistle — Hermas  and  Ignatius,  Justin  and  Tertullian,  and 
somewhat  later  Cyprian  writing  in  the  middle  of  the  third 
century  —  aUude  to  these  things  as  part  of  the  everyday 
Christian  life.  They  give  us,  it  is  true,  few  details,  little 
history  of  the  events  which  were  constantly  happening  ;  but 
as  we  read,  we  feel  that  the  thought  of  martyrdom  was  con 
stantly  present  with  them. 

Now  what  was  the  attraction  to  this  Christianity,  the 
profession  of  which  was  so  fraught  with  danger  —  so  sur 
rounded  with  deadly  peril  ? 

"  Le  candidat  au  Christianisme,  etait,  par  le  fait  meme, 
candidat  au  Martyre,"  graphically  writes  the  brilliant  and 
careful  French  scholar  Duchesne.  The  Christian  verily 
exposed  himself  and  his  dear  ones  to  measureless  penalties. 
Now  what  had  he  to  gain  by  such  a  dangerous  adventure  ? 

It  is  true  that  martyrdom  itself  possessed  a  special  at 
traction  for  some.  The  famous  chapters  of  Ignatius'  Letter 
to  the  Roman  Church,  written  circa  A.D.  109-10,  very  vividly 
picture  this  strange  charm.  The  constancy  of  the  confessor, 
the  calm  serenity  with  which  he  endured  tortures,  the  smil 
ing  confidence  with  which  he  welcomed  a  death  often  of  pain 
and  suffering — his  eyes  fixed  upon  something  invisible  to 
mortal  eyes  which  he  saw  immediately  before  him, — all  this 
was  new  in  the  world  of  Rome  ;  it  was  at  once  striking  and 
admirable.  Such  a  sight,  and  it  was  a  frequent  one,  was 
indeed  inspiring— "  Why  should  not  I,"  thought  many  a 
believer  in  Jesus,  "  share  in  this  glorious  future  ?  Why 
should  not  I  form  one  of  this  noble  band  of  elect  and  blessed 
souls  ?  " 

Then  again  another  attraction  to  Christianity  was  ever 

38          THE  CHURCH  IN  ROME  AFTER  A.D.  64 

present  in  the  close  union  which  existed  among  the  members 
of  the  community. 

In  this  great  Brotherhood,  without  any  attempt  to  level 
down  the  wealthier  Christians,  without  any  movement 
towards  establishing  a  general  community  of  goods,  the 
warmest  feelings  of  friendship  and  love  were  cultivated  between 
all  classes  and  degrees.  The  Christian  teachers  pointed  out 
with  great  force  that  in  the  eyes  of  the  divine  Master  no  differ 
ence  existed  between  the  slave  and  the  free-born,  between  the 
patrician  and  the  little  trader  ;  with  Him  there  was  perfect 
equality.  Sex  and  age,  rank  and  fortune,  poverty  and  riches, 
country  and  race,  with  Him  were  of  no  account.  All  men 
and  women  who  struggled  after  the  life  He  loved,  were  His 
dear  servants.  The  result  of  all  this  was  shown  in  the 
generous  and  self-denying  love  of  the  wealthier  members 
of  the  flock  towards  their  poor  and  needy  brothers  and 

This  is  conspicuously  shown  in  the  wonderful  story  of  the 
vast  cemeteries  of  the  suburbs  of  Rome,  where  at  a  very  early 
date  the  rich  afforded  the  hospitality  of  the  tomb  to  their 
poor  friends. 

Most  of  the  so-called  "  catacombs  "  began  in  the  gardens 
of  the  rich  and  noble,  where  the  little  family  God's  acre  was 
speedily  opened  to  the  proletariat  and  the  slave,  who  after  death 
were  tenderly  and  lovingly  cared  for,  and  laid  to  sleep  with 
all  reverence  alongside  the  members  of  the  patrician  house 
to  whom  the  cemetery  belonged,  and  which  in  numberless 
instances  was  enlarged  to  receive  these  poor  and  humble 

But,  after  all,  great  and  different  though  these  various 
attractive  influences  were, — and  which  no  doubt  in  countless 
cases  brought  unnumbered  men  and  women  of  all  ranks  and 
orders  into  the  ranks  of  Christianity, — there  was  something 
more  which  united  all  these  various  nationalities,  these  different 
grades,  with  an  indissoluble  bond  of  union  ;  something  more 
which  enabled  them  to  live  on  year  after  year  in  the  shadow  of 
persecution — in  daily  danger  of  losing  all  that  men  most  prize 
and  hold  dear  ;  something  more  which  gave  them  that  serene 
courage  at  the  last,  which  inspired  the  great  army  of  bravely 


patient  martyrs  to  witness  a  good  confession  for  the  Name's 
sake.  It  was  that  burning,  that  living  faith  in  the  great 
sacrifice  of  their  loving  Master — the  faith  which  in  the  end 
vanquished  even  pagan  Rome — the  faith  which  comes  from 
no  books  or  arguments,  no  preaching  and  no  persuasion— 
from  no  learning  however  profound  and  sacred  —  from  no 
human  arsenal,  however  furnished  with  truth  and  righteous 

It  was  that  strong  and  deathless  faith  which  is  the  gift  of 
God  alone,  and  which  in  a  double  portion  was  the  gift  of  the 
Holy  Ghost  to  the  sorely  tried  Church  in  the  heroic  age  of 

After  the  death  of  Nero,  during  the  very  brief  reigns  of 
Galba  Otho  and  Vitellius,  probably  the  persecution  of  Chris 
tians,  owing  to  the  disturbed  state  of  Rome  and  the  Empire, 
languished.  When,  however,  the  Flavian  House  in  the 
person  of  Vespasian  was  firmly  placed  in  power,,  the  policy 
of  the  government  of  Nero,  which  held  that  the  Christians 
were  a  sect  the  tendency  of  whose  beliefs  and  practice  was 
hostile  to  the  very  foundations  and  established  principles  of 
the  Roman  government,  was  strictly  adhered  to,  and  possibly 
even  developed. 

The  followers  of  the  sect  were  deemed  outlaws,  and  the 
name  of  a  Christian  was  treated  as  a  crime. 

There  is  a  famous  passage  in  Sulpicius  Severus  (fourth 
century)  which  most  modern  scholars  consider  to  have  been 
an  extract  from  a  lost  book  of  Tacitus.  It  is  an  account 
of  a  Council  of  War  held  after  the  storming  of  Jerusalem, 
A.D.  70.  In  this  Council,  Titus  the  son  and  heir  of  Vespasian— 
the  hero  of  the  great  campaign  which  closed  with  the  fall  of 
Jerusalem — is  reported  to  have  expressed  the  opinion  that  the 
Temple  ought  to  be  destroyed  in  order  that  the  religion  of  the 
Jews  and  of  the  Christians  might  be  more  completely  rooted 
up  ;  for  these  religions,  though  opposed  to  each  other,  had  yet 
the  same  origin.  The  Christians  had  sprung  from  the  Jews, 
and  when  the  root  was  torn  up  the  stem  issuing  from  the  root 
would  easily  be  destroyed.  There  is  no  doubt  but  that  this 
report  of  Titus'  speech  at  the  Council  of  War  is  an  historical 

40          THE  CHURCH  IN  ROME  AFTER  A.D.  64 

document  of  the  utmost  importance.  It  tells  us  exactly  what 
was  the  feeling  of  the  imperial  Flavian  House  towards  the 
Christians — they  represented  an  evil  which  it  was  well  to 

It  is  possible  that  in  a  mutilated  passage  of  Suetonius  a 
reference  occurs  to  Vespasian's  actions  at  this  period  (in  the 
year  following  A.D.  70)  in  respect  to  the  Christians.  The 
passage  runs  as  follows  :  "  Never  in  the  death  of  any  one  did 
Vespasian  (take  pleasure,  and  in  the  case  of)  merited  punish 
ments  he  even  wept  and  groaned."  This  is  clearly  a  reference 
to  some  class  of  individuals  whose  punishment  Vespasian  felt 
bound  to  accept,  while  he  regretted  it.  "  It  is  inconceivable  that 
Vespasian,  a  Roman  soldier  of  long  experience  in  the  bloody 
wars  of  Britain  and  Judaea,  wept  and  groaned  at  every  merited 
execution.  .  .  .  We  think  of  the  punishments  which  by 
the  principle  of  Nero  attached  to  the  Christians  .  .  .  the 
principle  in  question  continued  permanently,  and  Suetonius 
alluded  to  it  on  account  of  the  detail,  interesting  to  a  bio 
grapher,  that  Vespasian  wept  while  he  confirmed  its  operation."  l 

But  a  yet  more  precise  statement,  that  persecution  was 
actively  continued  under  Vespasian,  is  to  be  found  in  the  Latin 
Father,  Hilary  of  Poitiers,  who  ranks  Vespasian  between  Nero 
and  Decius  as  a  persecutor  of  the  Faith.2  Some  critics  have 
supposed  this  notice  an  error.  Lightfoot,  however,  thinks 
it  more  probable  that  it  was  based  upon  some  facts  of  history 
known  to  Hilary,  but  since  blotted  out  by  time  from  the  records 
of  history.3 

Towards  the  end  of  Domitian's  reign,  circa  A.D.  95,  the 
persecution  became  more  bitter.  Indeed,  so  severely  were  the 
Christians  hunted  out  and  prosecuted  that  the  period  had 
become  memorable  in  history.  Domitian  is  constantly  men- 

1  See  Ramsay,  The  Church  in  the  Roman  Empire,  xii.  2. 

2  See  Hilary  (Poitiers),  Contra  Artanos,  3. 

3  Bishop  Lightfoot  discusses  at  some  length  the  great  probability  of  the 
accuracy  of  this  definite  statement  of  S.  Hilary  of  Poitiers,  and  decides  that 
the  absence  of  any  mention  of  Vespasian  among  the  persecutors  in  Melito 
and  Tertullian  by  no  means  invalidates  Hilary's  mention  ;    no  systematic 
record  was  kept  of  the  persecutions  ;     the  knowledge  possessed  by  each 
individual  writer  was  accidental  and  fragmentary.     Lightfoot,  Ignatius  and 
Polycarp,  vol.  i.  pp.  15,  16. 


tioned  as  the  second  great  persecutor,  Nero  being  the  first.  The 
reason  doubtless  for  this  general  tradition  is  that  in  A.D. 
95,  persons  of  the  highest  rank,  some  even  belonging  to  the 
imperial  family,  were  among  the  condemned ;  notably  Flavius 
Clemens  the  Consul,  and  the  two  princesses  bearing  the  name  of 
Domitilla — all  these  being  very  near  relatives  of  the  Emperor. 

The  violent  outbreak  of  persecution,  fierce  and  terrible  as 
it  seems  to  have  been  in  the  last  year  and  a  half  of  Domitian's 
reign,  does  not  appear  to  have  been  owing  to  any  special 
movement  among  the  Christian  subjects  of  the  Empire  which 
aroused  attention  and  suggested  distrust,  but  was  solely  owing 
to  the  Emperor's  private  policy  and  personal  feelings.  There 
is  nothing  to  show  that  any  edict  against  the  sect  was  promul 
gated  in  this  reign.  Since  the  time  of  Nero  the  persecution  of 
Christians  was  a  standing  matter,  as  was  that  of  persons  who 
were  habitual  law-breakers,  robbers,  and  such  like.  Probably 
under  the  princes  of  the  Flavian  dynasty,  as  we  have  said,  this 
policy  of  the  government  was  somewhat  developed  throughout 
the  Empire,  and  now  and  again,  owing  to  local  circumstances 
and  the  disposition  of  the  chief  magistrate,  was  more  or  less 
severe.  It  is  said  that  some  governors  boasted  that  they  had 
brought  back  from  their  province  their  lictors'  axes  unstained 
with  blood ;  but  others  were  actuated  with  very  different 

In  the  case  of  the  so-called  Domitian  persecution,  the  ill-will 
of  the  autocratic  Emperor  naturally  intensified  it.  Various 
motives  seem  to  have  influenced  the  sovereign  Lord  of  the 
Empire  here. 

Domitian  was  a  sombre  and  suspicious  tyrant,  and  no 
doubt  his  cruel  action  in  the  case  of  his  relatives,  the  consul 
Flavius  and  the  princesses  of  his  House,  was  prompted  by 
jealousy  of  those  who  stood  nearest  his  throne,  and  the  fact 
that  they  were  found  to  belong  to  the  proscribed  sect  gave  him  a 
pretext  of  which  he  was  glad  to  avail  himself.  But  his  bloody 
vengeance  was  by  no  means  only  wreaked  upon  his  own  rela 
tives.  We  learn  from  the  pagan  writer  Dion  Cassius  (in  the 
epitome  of  his  work  by  the  monk  Xiphilin)  and  also  from 
Suetonius,  that  he  put  to  death  various  persons  of  high  position, 
notably  Acilius  Glabrio  who  had  been  consul  in  A.D.  91. 


This  Acilius  Glabrio  was  also  a  Christian.  The  researches  and 
discoveries  of  De  Rossi  and  Marruchi  in  the  older  portion  of 
the  vast  Catacomb  of  S.  Priscilla  have  conclusively  proved 

There  was  another  reason,  however,  for  Domitian 's  special 
hatred  of  the  Christian  sect.  The  Emperor  was  a  vigilant 
censor,  and  an  austere  guardian  of  the  ancient  Roman  tradi 
tions.  In  this  respect  he  has  with  some  justice  been  cited  as 
pursuing  the  same  policy  as  did  his  great  predecessor  Augustus, 
and,  like  him,  he  looked  on  the  imperial  cultus l  as  part  of 
the  State  religion.  Domitian  felt  that  these  ancient  traditions 
which  formed  a  part  of  Roman  life  were  compromised  by  the 
teaching  and  practices  of  the  Christian  sect.  No  doubt  this 
was  one  of  the  principal  reasons  which  influenced  him  in  his 
active  persecution  of  the  followers  of  Jesus. 

But  although  he  struck  at  some  of  the  noblest  and  most 
highly  placed  in  the  Empire,  especially,  as  it  seems,  those  sus 
pected  of  being  members  of  the  hated  sect,  he  appears  to 
have  vented  his  fury  also  upon  many  who  belonged  to  the 
lower  classes  of  the  citizens.  Juvenal  in  a  striking  passage 
evidently  alludes  to  his  pursuit  of  these  comparatively  un 
known  and  obscure  ones,  and  traces  the  unpopularity  which 
eventually  led  to  his  assassination  to  this  persecution  of  the 
poor  nameless  citizen.2 

1  "  Domitian  loved  to  be  identified  with  Jupiter,  and  to  be  idolized  as  the 
Divine  Providence  in  human  form  ;  and  it  is  recorded  that  Caligula,  Domitian, 
and  Diocletian  were  the  three  Emperors  who  delighted  to  be  styled  dominus 
et  deus." 

2  He  struck  (says  the  Roman  poet),  without  exciting  popular  indignation, 
at  the  illustrious  citizen : 

"  Tempora  saevitise,  claras  quibus  abstulit  Urbi 
Illustresque  animas  impune,  et  vindice  nullo." 

But  when  his  rage  touched  the  people — he  fell : 

"  Sed  periit,  postquam  cerdonibus  esse  timendus 
coeperat  "  .  .  .  (Juvenal,  iv.  151-4). 

The  word  cerdones  included  the  poorest  and  humblest  artisans.  The 
word  is  commonly  translated  "  cobblers  " — French  savetiers  ;  it  is  usually 
applied  to  the  slave  class,  or  to  those  engaged  in  the  poorest  industries. 

Allard  (Histoire  des  Persecutions,  i.  n,  chap,  iv.)  considers  that  the  disgust 
and  pity  of  the  populace  when  they  saw  the  horrible  cruelties  practised  in 
the  celebrated  games  of  Nero  in  A.D.  64,  were  partly  owing  to  the  indignation 


Domitian  was  assassinated  A.D.  96,  and  was  succeeded  by 
the  good  and  gentle  Emperor  Nerva.  The  active  and  bitter 
persecution  which  Domitian  carried  on  in  the  latter  years  of 
his  reign,  as  far  as  we  know,  ceased,  and  once  more  the  Christian 
sect  was  left  in  comparative  quiet,  that  is  to  say,  they  were 
still  in  the  position  of  outlaws,  the  sword  of  persecution  ever 
hanging  over  their  heads.  The  law  which  forbade  their  very 
existence  was  there,  if  any  one  was  disposed  to  call  it  into 
action.  The  passion  of  the  populace,  the  bigotry  of  a  magistrate, 
or  the  malice  of  some  responsible  personage,  might  at  any 
moment  awake  the  slumbering  law  into  activity.  These 
various  malicious  influences,  ever  ready,  were  constantly  setting 
the  law  in  motion.  This  we  certainly  gather  from  Pliny's 
reference  to  the  "  Cognitiones  "  or  inquiries  into  accusations 
set  on  foot  against  Christians  in  his  famous  letter  to  the  Em 
peror  Trajan. 

of  the  people  when  they  perceived  that  so  many  of  their  own  class  were  among 
the  tormented  Christians  in  that  horrible  massacre. 

Aube,  too,  in  his  Histoire  des  Persecutions,  calls  special  attention  to  these 
lines  of  Juvenal.  He  connects  the  murder  of  Domitian  closely  with  the  indig 
nation  aroused  among  the  people  by  this  bitter  persecution,  and  suggests 
that  the  plot  which  resulted  in  the  assassination  of  the  tyrant  originated  in  a 
Christian  centre.  This  is,  however,  in  the  highest  degree  improbable. 






A  FLOOD  of  light  is  poured  upon  the  early  history  of 
Christianity  in  the  correspondence  which  passed  between 
the  Emperor  Trajan  and  his  friend  and  minister  Pliny 
the  Younger,  who  had  been  appointed  to  the  governorship  l  of 
Bithynia  and  Pontus,  the  district  lying  in  the  north  of  Asia  Minor. 
The  letter  of  Pliny,  containing  his  report  of  the  trial  and 
inquiry  into  the  matter  of  the  accused  Christians  of  his  province, 
and  asking  for  direction,  was  written  to  the  Emperor  Trajan 
in  the  autumn  of  A.D.  in  ;  and  the  reply  of  Trajan,  which  con 
tained  the  famous  rescript  concerning  the  Christian  sect — an 
ordinance  which  regulated  the  action  of  the  government  of 
Rome  towards  the  disciples  of  Jesus  for  many  long  years — was 
dispatched  a  few  months  later. 

The  correspondence  was  quoted  and  commented  upon 
at  some  length  by  the  Latin  Father  Tertullian  before  the  close 
of  the  second  century.  Eusebius  again  refers  to  it,  trans 
lating  the  quotations  of  Tertullian  from  a  Greek  version  of  the 
celebrated  Christian  Father.2 

1The  full  official  title  of  Pliny  the  Younger  in  this  governorship  was 
"  Legatus  propraetore  provinciae  Ponti  et  Bithyniae  consulari  potestate." 
That  eminent  statesman  was  entrusted  \\ith  this  province  mainly  on  account 
of  its  needing  special  attention  at  that  time. 

2  Tertullian,  Apologcticum,  2  ;  Eusebius,  H.  E.  in.  xxxii.  33. 


46        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

For  various  reasons,  some  critics  have  thrown  doubt  upon 
the  genuineness  of  these  two  famous  letters.  The  main  cause 
of  the  hesitation  in  receiving  them  is  the  strong  evidence  con 
tained  in  the  correspondence  bearing  upon  the  existence  and 
influence  and  great  numbers  of  the  Christian  sect  at  the  be 
ginning  of  the  second  century.  That  a  pagan  author  should 
supply  us  with  the  information — and  especially  a  pagan  author 
of  the  rank  and  position  which  the  younger  Pliny  held — 
the  adversaries  of  the  Faith  misliked. 

These  very  doubts,  however,  as  in  other  cases  of  doubt 
respecting  the  authenticity  of  some  of  our  Christian  and  pagan 
writings  bearing  on  the  facts  of  very  early  Christianity,  have 
established  the  genuineness  of  the  pieces  in  question,  the  doubts 
requiring  an  answer,  and  the  answer  involving  a  careful  and 
thoughtful  investigation.  It  is  singular,  in  their  scarcely 
veiled  hostility  to  the  religion  of  Jesus,  how  some  scholars 
attempt  to  discredit  all  the  references  to  the  Christians  in  early 
heathen  writers. 

In  this  case  the  investigation  has  completely  proved  the 
genuineness  of  the  correspondence  in  question.  Bishop  Light- 
foot,  in  the  course  of  his  thorough  and  scholarly  examination, 
does  not  hesitate  to  write  that  the  genuineness  of  the  important 
Letters  "  can  now  only  be  questioned  by  a  scepticism  bordering 
on  insanity." 

Amongst  other  critics  who  completely  brush  away  all 
doubts  here,  he  quotes  Aldus  Manutius,  Mommsen,  and  the 
French  writer  (no  friend  to  Christianity)  Renan.  The  same 
view  is  also  unhesitatingly  taken  by  Allard  and  Boissier  in 
France,  and  Ramsay  in  England.  In  any  controversy  which 
may  arise  here  obviously  the  attestation  of  Tertullian  in  the 
last  years  of  the  century  in  which  the  Letters  were  written  is 
of  the  highest  value.1 

1  Lightfoot  well  observes  (Apostolic  Fathers,  part  ii.  vol.  i.,  S.  Ignatius, 
pp.  54-6)  that  these  two  famous  letters  cannot  be  separated  from  the 
collection  of  Pliny's  Letters  in  which  they  appear.  Renan  in  Les  £van°iles 
writes:  "  On  ne  croira  jamais  qu'un  faussaire  Chretien  eut  pu  si  admirable- 
ment  imiter  la  langue  precieuse  et  raffmee  de  Pline." 

Lightfoot  further  asks,  what  Christian  writer,  if  bent  on  forgery,  would 
have  confessed  that  crowds  of  Ms  fellow-believers  had  denied  their  faith  .  .  . 
that  the  persecution  was  already  refilling  the  heathen  temples  which  before 


were  nearly  empty,  and  that  there  was  good  hope,  if  the  same  policy  of  per 
secution  was  pursued,  of  a  general  apostasy  from  Christianity  ensuing  ? 
Several,  too,  of  the  statements  concerning  the  practices  of  Christians  betray 
only  a  very  imperfect  knowledge  of  the  practices  referred  to. 

The  passage  which,  however,  has  excited  the  greatest  suspicion  and 
animosity  is  that  which  relates  to  the  great  numbers  of  the  Christians ;  but  it 
must  be  remembered  that  Tacitus  had  already  spoken  of  "  a  vast  multitude  " 
as  suffering  at  Rome  in  the  persecution  of  the  Emperor  Nero. 



WHEN  Domitian  was  assassinated,  and  Nerva  was  pro 
claimed  Emperor,  a  new  spirit  was  introduced  into  the 
occupants  of  the  imperial  dignity.     Nerva  represented 
the  old  conservative  and  aristocratic  spirit  of  the  Roman  Senate. 
He  only  reigned  a  short  two  years,  but  his  great  act  was  the 
association  in  the  supreme  power  of  one  who  in  all  respects 
would  and  could  carry  out  the  ancient  traditions  of  Roman 
government,  of  which  Nerva  was  a  true  representative. 

Nerva  died  early  in  98,  and  his  associate  Trajan  at  once 
became  sole  Emperor.  In  many  respects  this  Trajan  was  the 
greatest  of  the  despotic  masters  who  in  succession  ruled  the 
Roman  world.  At  once  a  renowned  soldier  and  a  far-seeing 
statesman,  his  complex  personality  is  admirably  and  tersely 
summed  up  by  Allard  (Histoire  des  Persecutions,  i.  145),  who 
writes  of  him  :  "On  cut  cru  voir  le  senat  romain  lui-m^me 
prenant  une  ame  guerriere  et  montant  sur  le  trone." 

As  a  rule,  writers  of  sacred  history  treat  the  memory  of 
Trajan  with  great  gentleness.  The  Christian  writers  in  the 
second  half  of  the  second  century  shrink  from  seeing  in  him  a 
persecutor  of  the  Church.  They  were,  of  course,  biassed  in  their 
judgment,  being  loth  to  think  of  a  great  Emperor  like  Trajan 
as  a  persecutor  of  their  religion.  As  we  have  already  remarked, 
the  written  Acts  of  Martyrs  were  very  few  during  the  first 
and  second  centuries  ;  and  the  name  and  memory  of  the 
earliest  brave  confessors  of  the  Name,  save  in  a  few  very 
notable  instances,  quietly  and  quickly  faded  away  ;  so  the 
recollections  of  the  second-century  Fathers  in  the  matter  of 
the  State  policy  in  the  past,  with  regard  to  Christianity,  were 
somewhat  vague  and  uncertain.  Later,  in  the  early  and  middle 


years  of  the  fourth  century,  Eusebius,  though  in  his  time  the 
fact  of  continuous  persecution  in  the  past  had  become  generally 
known,  tries  to  exculpate  the  memory  of  Trajan  as  a  perse 
cutor,  but  with  very  doubtful  success. 

This  favourable  and  somewhat  generous  view  of  Trajan 
held  its  own  through  the  early  Middle  Ages.  A  striking  and 
beautiful  story  illustrative  of  these  estimates  is  told  of  Pope 
Gregory  the  Great  (A.D.  590-604)  by  both  his  biographers, 
Paul  the  Deacon  (close  of  eighth  century)  and  John  the  Deacon 
(close  of  ninth  century).  The  Bishop  of  Rome  once,  walking 
through  the  Forum  of  Trajan,  was  attracted  by  a  sculptured 
bas-relief  representing  the  great  Emperor  showing  pity  to  a 
poor  aged  widow  whose  only  son  had  perished  through  the 
violence  of  the  Emperor's  soldiers. 

Struck  by  this  proof  of  the  just  and  loving  nature  of 
Trajan,  the  Pope,  kneeling  at  the  tomb  of  S.  Peter,  prayed 
earnestly  that  mercy  might  be  showed  to  the  great  pagan 
emperor.  The  prayer,  so  runs  the  story,  was  granted  ;  and 
it  was  revealed  to  Gregory  that  the  soul  of  Trajan  was  released 
from  torment  in  answer  to  his  intercession.  The  beauty  and 
noble  charity  which  colour  the  legend  are,  however,  spoiled 
and  marred  by  the  words  of  the  traditional  revelation  which 
follow.  The  generous  Pope,  while  hearing  that  his  prayers 
were  granted,  was  wrarned  never  again  to  presume  to  pray  for 
those  who  had  died  without  holy  baptism. 

Not  a  few  modern  scholars,  however,  read  the  famous 
interposition  of  Trajan  at  the  time  of  Pliny's  request  for 
guidance  as  manifesting  a  hostile  spirit  towards  Christianity ; 
so,  to  quote  a  few  of  the  better-known  writers,  interpret 
Gieseler,  Overbach,  Aube,  Friedlander,  Uhlhorn,  etc.,  while 
Renan  (Les  Evangiles)  perhaps  more  accurately  writes : 
"  Trajan  fut  le  premier  persecuteur  systematique  de  Christi- 
anisme  "  ;  and  again,  "  a  partir  de  Trajan  le  Christianisme  est 
un  crime." 

The  truth,  however,  really  lies  between  these  two  divergent 
opinions.  The  "  rescript  "  of  Trajan  promulgated  no  new 
law  on  the  subject  of  the  treatment  of  the  Christian  be 
lievers.  It  evidently  presupposed  the  existence  of  a  law,  and 
that  a  very  stern  and  very  harsh  mode  of  procedure.  From 

50        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

it  Trajan  neither  subtracted  anything  nor  added  anything  ; 
still,  as  has  been  very  justly  said,  the  humane  and  up 
right  character  of  the  Emperor  and  his  minister  Pliny— 
Pliny,  by  his  evident,  though  carefully  veiled,  advice  and 
suggestions  based  upon  his  protracted  inquiries  into  the 
tenets  and  customs  of  the  sect ;  Trajan,  by  his  formal  im 
perial  "  rescript  "—secured  some  considerable  mitigation  in 
its  enforcement. 

The  story  of  the  correspondence  between  Pliny  the 
Younger  and  the  Emperor  Trajan,  which  was  fraught  with 
such  momentous  consequences  to  the  Christians  of  Rome 
and  the  Empire  generally,  is  as  follows  : 

When  Pliny,  about  the  middle  of  the  year  in,  came  to 
the  scene  of  his  government, — the  provinces  of  Bithynia  and 
Pontus, — apparently  somewhat  to  his  surprise  he  found  a 
very  considerable  portion  of  the  population  members  of  the 
Christian  community.  The  religion  professed  by  these  people, 
Pliny  was  well  aware,  was  unlawful  in  the  eyes  of  the  State, 
and  the  sect  generally  was  unpopular ;  and  evil  rumours 
were  current  respecting  its  traditional  practices. 

The  new  governor  knew  of  the  existence  of  the  sect  in 
Rome,  but  little  more.  He  was  clearly  aware  that  these 
Christians  had  been  the  object  of  many  State  persecutions 
and  judicial  inquiries,  "  cognitiones  "  he  terms  them,  and  no 
doubt  knew  something,  too,  of  the  public  severity  with  which 
these  adherents  of  an  unlawful  religion  had  been  treated  by 
the  State  when  convicted  of  the  crime  of  Christianity. 

The  horrors  of  the  amphitheatre  in  the  case  of  these  con 
demned  ones  could  not  have  been  unknown  to  one  like  Pliny. 
But  the  great  world  in  which  Pliny  lived  and  moved  and 
worked,  cared  little  for  human  life  or  human  suffering  in  the 
case  of  a  despised  and  outlawed  community. 

The  Roman  teacher  and  patrician  of  the  days  of  Trajan 
held  human  life  very  cheaply.  The  amphitheatre  games,  to 
take  one  phase  only  of  Roman  life  in  the  days  of  the  Empire, 
were  an  evil  education  for  Rome.  The  execution,  the  suffer 
ings  of  a  few  score  Christian  outlaws,  however  frequently  re 
peated,  would  attract  very  little  attention  in  Pliny's  world. 


But  now  in  his  new  government  he  was  brought  face  to 
face  with  grave  difficulties  occasioned  by  the  practices  and 
teaching  of  this  Christianity.  And  when  he  discovered  in 
addition  how  numerous  a  body  these  followers  of  the  forbidden 
religion  were,  Pliny  set  himself  in  good  earnest  to  investigate 
the  Christian  question. 

More  than  fifty  years  had  passed  since  S.  Peter  first  preached 
the  gospel  and  laid  the  foundation  stories  of  the  Christian 
Church  in  these  northern  provinces  of  Asia  Minor.  The 
religion  of  Jesus  had  rapidly  taken  root  in  these  districts. 
This  we  gather  from  the  First  Epistle  of  Peter,  which  he  wrote 
to  the  followers  of  Jesus  in  the  north  of  Asia  Minor  from 
Rome  in  the  closing  years  of  his  ministry  ;  and  now  Pliny 
found  in  his  province  no  novel  faith  growing  up,  but  a  faith 
which  had  taken  deep  root  in  the  hearts  of  the  population, 
not  only  in  the  towns,  but  also  in  the  more  remote  villages 
(neque  enim  civitates  tantum  sed  vicos  etiam  atque  agros 
superstitionis  istius  contagio  pervagata  est),  with  the  result 
that  the  old  pagan  cult  was  being  gradually  abandoned.  The 
temples  were  being  fast  deserted  (prope  jam  desolata  templa), 
the  sacred  rites  were  being  given  up,  and  what  evidently 
excited  bitter  complaints  on  the  part  of  the  traders  who 
suffered,  there  was  no  longer  any  market  for  the  fodder  of  the 
beasts  sacrificed  (pastum  .  .  .  victimarum  quarum  adhuc 
rarissimus  emptor  invent  ebatur). 

From  the  report  of  Pliny  to  the  Emperor,  it  is  evident 
that  there  had  been  several  judicial  inquiries  (cognitiones) , 
conducted  by  him  as  the  responsible  governor  of  Bithynia 
and  Pontus,  into  the  charges  brought  against  the  adherents 
of  the  unlawful  faith. 

In  the  first  "  cognitio  "  the  more  prominent  Christians 
were  brought  before  him.  These  all  at  once  avowed  their 
religion.  Three  times  they  were  interrogated  by  Pliny.  As 
they  persisted  in  the  avowal  that  they  were  Christians,  the 
provincials  were  at  once  condemned  to  death.  Those  who 
claimed  Roman  citizenship  were  sent  to  Rome  for  their 
sentences  to  be  confirmed. 

The  publicity  of  these  first  inquiries  stimulated  further 
accusations  ;  various  degrees  of  guilt  were  alleged,  and  subse- 

52         THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

quently  an    anonymous  paper  was  put  before  the  governor 
implicating  a  whole  crowd  of  persons. 

Of  these,  some  denied  that  they  were,  or  ever  had  been, 
Christians.  These,  on  offering  incense  before  the  image  of 
the  Emperor  and  cursing  Christ,  were  at  once  liberated. 

Others  confessed,  but  professed  repentance.  These  he 
reserved  for  the  decision  of  the  Emperor.  It  is  not  explicitly 
said  that  of  this  second  and  larger  group  of  "  accused,"  some 
persisted  in  their  adherence  to  the  "  Name."  There  is  no 
doubt  that  such  were  treated  as  in  the  first  group,  some  being 
put  to  death ;  others,  as  Roman  citizens,  reserved  for  the 
imperial  decision. 

It  was  then  that  Pliny,  especially  disturbed  at  the  numbers 
of  accused  Christians,  determined  upon  a  more  searching 
investigation  into  the  manners  and  customs  of  these  numerous 
adherents  of  the  unlawful  religion.  He  would  learn  for  himself 
more  of  the  "  detestable  "  rites  and  other  crimes  with  which 
these  persons  were  charged. 

Two  Christian  deaconesses  are  mentioned  as  being  examined 
under  torture  ;  others  were  closely  questioned,  and  the  result 
of  the  inquiries  to  Pliny  was  startling. 

He  satisfied  himself  that  the  monstrous  charges  were 
absolutely  unproven.  All  their  rites  were  simple,  perfectly 
harmless,  and  unostentatious.  Pliny  in  the  course  of  his 
inquiry  found  that  they  were  in  the  habit  of  meeting  together, 
on  a  day  appointed,  before  sunrise  ;  that  they  would  then 
sing  together  a  hymn  to  Christ  as  God ;  that  they  would 
bind  themselves  by  a  solemn  vow — sacr amentum  (Pliny  was 
evidently  not  aware  that  the  sacramentum  in  question  was  the 
Holy  Eucharist ;  indeed  the  whole  narrative  is  evidently  told 
by  one  who  very  imperfectly  grasped  the  Christian  idea, 
although  it  is  strangely  accurate  in  many  of  the  details). 
The  purport  of  the  vow  was  that  they  would  commit  neither 
theft  nor  adultery  ;  that  they  would  never  break  their  word  ; 
never  betray  a  trust  committed  to  them. 

The  just  magistrate  was  evidently  deeply  impressed  with 
the  result  of  his  careful  and  searching  examinations.  This 
strange  sect,  he  was  convinced,  was  absolutely  innocent  of  all 
those  dark  offences  with  which  they  were  commonly  charged — 


like  another  and  more  sadly  notorious  Roman  judge  sitting  in 
another  and  more  awful  judgment-scene,  who  after  hearing 
the  case,  from  that  time  sought  to  release  the  pale  -prisoner 
before  him.  So  at  once  after  hearing  the  Christian  story, 
Pliny  too,  convinced  of  the  perfect  innocence  of  the  accused, 
altered  his  opinion  concerning  Christians ;  but  for  State 
reasons  would  not  release  them,  and  while  acquitting  them 
of  all  wrong-doing,  in  the  ordinary  sense  of  the  word,  chose  to 
see  an  evil  and  exaggerated  superstition  colouring  all  their 
works  and  days.1  Innocent  though  they  were  of  anything 
approaching  crime  in  the  ordinary  sense  of  the  term,  the 
Roman  magistrate  deemed  the  inflexible  obstinacy  of  the 
Christian  deserved  the  severest  punishment  that  could  be 
inflicted,  even  death  ;  for  when  the  individual  Christian  in 
question  was  examined,  he  proved  to  be  immovable  on 
questions  of  vital  importance.  He  refused  to  swear  by  the 
genius  of  the  Emperor.  He  would  not  scatter  the  customary 
grains  of  incense  on  the  altar  of  Rome  and  Augustus,  or  of 
any  of  the  pagan  gods.  His  religious  offence  was  inextricably 
bound  up  with  the  political  offence.  He  stood,  as  it  had  been 
well  expressed,  self-convicted  of  "  impiety,"  of  "  atheism/'  of 
"  high  treason." 

Still,  after  all  these  points  had  been  taken  into  consideration, 
there  is  no  doubt  that  Pliny  was  deeply  moved  by  what  he 
learned  from  his  close  examination  of  the  Christian  cause  ;  and 
this  new,  this  gentle,  this  more  favourable  estimate  of  his 
concerning  the  "  outlawed  "  sect  of  Christians,  was  scarcely 
veiled  in  his  official  report  of  the  case  when  he  asked  for  the 
Emperor  Trajan's  advice  and  direction. 

He  was,  we  learn,  especially  induced  to  write  to  the  Emperor 
when  he  became  aware  of  the  vast  numbers  of  Christians  who 
had  been,  or  were  about  to  be,  brought  before  his  tribunal. 
The  numbers  of  the  accused  evidently  appalled  him.  How 
would  the  Emperor  wish  him  to  deal  with  such  a  multitude  ? 

Very  brief  but  very  clear  was  the  answer  of  Trajan  to  his 
friend  and  confidant  the  governor  of  Bithynia  and  Pontus. 
This  answer  contained  the  famous  imperial  "  rescript  "— which 

1  "  Sed  nihil  aliud  inveni,  quam  superstitionem  pravam  ct  immodicam.'* 
Pliny,  Ep.  x.  96. 

54        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

in  the  matter  of  the  Christians  was  "  to  run  "  not  only  in 
Rome  itself,  but  in  all  the  provinces  of  the  wide  Empire,  and 
which,  as  is  well  known,  guided  the  State  persecution  of 
Christians  for  many  a  long  year. 

The  "  rescript  "  bore  unmistakably  the  impress  of  Pliny's 
mind  on  the  subject ;  and  severe  though  it  was,  it  inaugurated 
a  gentler  and  more  favourable  interpretation  of  the  stern 
law  in  the  case  of  convicted  Christians  than  had  prevailed 
from  the  days  of  Nero  onward. 

The  following  are  the  principal  points  of  the  "  rescript." 
In  the  first  place — and  this  point  must  be  pressed — no  fresh 
law  authorizing  any  special  persecution  of  the  Christians  was 
needed  or  even  suggested  by  Pliny.  They  had  evidently 
for  a  long  period,  apparently  from  the  days  of  Nero,  been 
classed  as  outlaws  (hostes  piiblici)  and  enemies  to  the  funda 
mental  principles  of  law  and  order,  and  the  mere  acknowledg 
ment  on  the  part  of  the  accused  of  the  name  Christian  was 
sufficient  in  itself  to  warrant  an  immediate  condemnation  to 

Trajan's  reply,  which  constituted  the  famous  rescript,  was 
studiedly  brief,  eminently  courteous,  but  imperious  and 
decisive.  The  friendly  bias  of  Pliny's  report  and  unmistak 
ably  favourable  opinion  of  the  Christian  sect,  lives  along 
every  line. 

He  begins  with  a  few  graceful  words  approving  Pliny's 
action  in  the  matter.  ("  Actum  quem  debuisti  mi  Secunde 
.  .  .  secutus  es.") 

Then  follow  the  stern,  unalterable  words  which  attach 
the  penalty  of  death  to  any  person  who  persisted  in  claiming 
the  name  of  Christian. 

But  extenuating  circumstances,  such  as  youth,  may  be 
taken  into  account,  if  the  magistrate  please  to  do  so. 

Any  approach  to  repentance,  accompanied  with  compliance 
with  the  law  of  the  Empire,  in  the  matter  of  offering  incense 
on  the  pagan  altars,  is  to  be  accepted,  and  the  offender  at  once 
is  to  be  pardoned. 

The  magistrate  is  by  no  means  to  search  for  Christians ; 
but  if  a  formal  accusation  be  made  by  an  open  accuser, 
then  inquiry  must  follow ;  and  if  the  accused  recognizes  the 


justice  of  the  charge,  and  declines  to  recant,  then  death  must 

The  accusation  of  an  anonymous  person,  however,  must 
never  be  received ;  the  Emperor  adding  his  strongest  con 
demnation  of  all  anonymous  denunciations.  '  This  kind  of 
thing  does  not,"  writes  Trajan,  "  belong  to  our  age  and  time/' 

Tertullian  (closing  years  of  second  century)  quotes  and 
sharply  criticizes  Trajan's  "  rescript."  He  writes  somwehat  as 
follows  :  "  What  a  contradictory  pronouncement  it  is.  The 
Emperor  forbids  the  Christians  should  be  searched  for — he 
therefore  looks  on  them  surely  as  innocent  persons  ;  and  then 
he  directs  that  if  any  are  brought  before  the  tribunal,  they 
must  be  punished  with  death  as  though  they  were  guilty  ones  ! 
In  the  same  breath  he  spares  them  and  rages  against  them. 
He  stultifies  himself ;  for  if  Christians  are  to  be  condemned  as 
Christians,  why  are  they  not  to  be  searched  for  ?  If,  on  the 
other  hand,  they  are  to  be  considered  as  innocent  persons  and  in 
consequence  not  to  be  searched  for,  why  not  acquit  them  at  once 
when  they  appear  before  the  tribunal  ?  .  .  .  You  condemn  an 
accused  Christian,  yet  you  forbid  him  to  be  inquired  after. 
So  punishment  is  inflicted,  not  because  he  is  guilty,  but  because 
he  has  been  discovered, — though  anything  which  might  bring 
him  to  light  is  forbidden."  (Apology  2.) 

The  brilliant  and  eloquent  Latin  Father,  with  the  acuteness 
of  a  trained  and  skilful  lawyer,  lays  bare  the  illogical  character 
of  the  imperial  rescript.  The  truth  was  that  after  carefully 
weighing  the  facts  laid  before  him  by  Pliny,  the  Emperor 
clearly  recognized  that  such  an  organization — so  far-reaching, 
so  numerous  and  powerful,  was  contrary  to  the  established 
principles  of  Roman  government.  The  Christian  sect  must 
be  discouraged,  and  if  possible  suppressed  ;  but  Trajan  saw 
at  the  same  time  that  the  spirit  of  the  Christians,  their  teaching 
and  practice,  were  absolutely  innocent,  even  morally  excellent ; 
so  he  shrank  from  logically  carrying  out  the  severe  measures 
devised  by  the  Roman  government  in  such  cases.  In  other 
words,  his  really  noble  and  generous  nature  prevented  him 
sanctioning  the  wholesale  destruction  which  a  strictly  logical 
interpretation  of  the  Roman  law  would  have  brought  upon  a 
very  numerous  body  of  his  subjects. 

56        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

But  in  spite  of  the  evident  goodwill  of  the  great  Emperor 
and  his  eminent  lieutenant,  the  sword  of  persecution  was  left 
hanging  over  the  heads  of  the  Christian  sect  suspended  by  a  very 
slender  cord.  How  often  the  slender  cord  snapped  is  told  in 
the  tragic  story  of  the  Christians  in  the  pagan  empire  during 
the  two  hundred  years  which  followed  the  correspondence 
between  Pliny  and  Trajan. 

The  information  supplied  by  these  Letters  respecting 
Christianity  at  the  beginning  of  the  second  century, 
emanating  as  they  do  from  so  trusted  a  statesman,  so 
distinguished  a  writer,  as  the  younger  Pliny,  supplemented 
by  a  State  communication  containing  an  imperial  rescript 
of  far-reaching  importance  from  the  hands  of  one  of 
the  greatest  of  the  Roman  Emperors,  is  so  weighty  that  it 
seems  to  call  for  a  slightly  more  detailed  notice  than  the 
particulars  which  appear  in  the  foregoing  pages  of  this  work. 

There  is  no  doubt  but  that  "  Letters "  such  as  those 
written  by  Pliny  during  the  eventful  period  extending  from 
the  days  of  the  Dictatorship  of  Julius  Caesar  to  the  reign  of 
Honorius — a  period  roughly  of  some  four  hundred  and  fifty 
years — occupied  in  the  literature  of  Rome  a  singular  and 
important  position. 

They  were  in  many  cases  most  carefully  prepared  and 
designed  for  a  far  larger  "  public  "  than  is  commonly  supposed. 
Long  after  the  death  of  the  writer  these  Letters,  gathered 
together  and  "  published  "  as  far  as  literary  works  could  be 
published  in  those  ages  when  no  printing-press  existed — were 
read  and  re-read,  admired  and  criticized,  by  very  many  in  the 
capital  and  in  the  provinces. 

The  first  great  Letter  writer  undoubtedly  was  Cicero,  who 
flourished  as  a  statesman,  an  orator,  and  a  most  distinguished 
writer  from  the  days  of  the  first  consulship  of  Pompey  and 
Crassus,  in  70  B.C.,  down  to  the  December  of  43  B.C.,  when  he 
was  murdered  during  the  proscription  of  the  Triumvirate. 

Of  the  multifarious  works  of  the  great  orator,  possibly  the 
most  generally  interesting  is  the  collection  of  his  Letters,  a  large 
portion  of  which  have  come  down  to  us. 

The  art  of  "  Letter-writing  "  suddenly  arose  in    Cicero's 


hands  in  Rome  to  its  full  perfection.  It  has  been  well  and  truly 
Said  that  all  the  great  letter-writers  of  subsequent  ages  have 
more  or  less  consciously  or  unconsciously  followed  the  model 
of  Cicero. 

But  it  was  in  the  Roman  Empire  that  the  fashion  was  most 
generally  adopted  ;  of  course,  in  common  with  so  much  of 
classical  literature,  the  majority  of  this  interesting  and  sug 
gestive  literature  has  perished,  but  some  of  it — perhaps  the  best 
portion  of  it — has  survived.  The  great  name  of  Seneca  is 
specially  connected  with  this  form  of  literature.  L.  Annaeus 
Seneca  wrote  the  Epistolce  Morales,  probably  "  publishing  " 
the  first  three  books  himself  circa  A.D.  57.  Among  these 
precious  reliquiae  the  "  Letters  of  Pliny,"  including  his  famous 
Letter  to  Trajan  and  the  response,  are  very  highly  prized  by 
the  historian  and  annalist. 

The  younger  Pliny  was  the  nephew  and  adopted  son  of 
the  elder  Pliny.  He  was  a  successful  lawyer,  and  was  highly 
trained  in  all  branches  of  literature.  During  his  brilliant 
career  he  filled  most  of  the  public  offices  of  State  in  turn,  and 
in  the  end  became  consul.  Of  the  Emperor  Trajan  he  was 
the  trusted  and  intimate  friend.  Trajan  appointed  him,  as 
we  have  seen,  imperial  legate  of  Bithynia  and  Pontus,  and 
when  holding  this  important  post  the  famous  correspondence 
between  the  Emperor  and  his  friend  took  place.  Pliny  died 
some  time  before  his  imperial  master,  not  many  years  after 
the  famous  letter  respecting  the  Christians  in  his  province  was 

His  was  a  charming  character, — kindly,  beneficent,  charit 
able, — deeply  impressed  with  the  grave  responsibilities  of  his 
position  and  fortune.  Carefully  educated  and  trained  under 
the  auspices  of  the  elder  Pliny, — a  profound  scholar  and  one 
of  the  most  weighty  writers  of  the  early  Empire, — the  younger 
Pliny,  as  he  is  generally  called,  won  distinction  at  a  compara 
tively  early  age  as  a  forensic  orator.  He  became  Praetor  at 
the  age  of  thirty-one.  During  the  reign  of  Domitian,  however, 
he  took  no  share  in  public  life.  Under  Nerva  he  again  was 
employed  in  the  State  service.  Trajan  loved  and  trusted  him, 
and  we  read  of  Pliny  being  consul  in  A.D.  100.  He  subse 
quently  obtained  the  government  of  the  great  provinces  of 

58        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

Bithynia  and  Pontus,  and  during  his  tenure  of  office  there 
must  be  dated  the  correspondence  between  Trajan  and  Pliny 
which  has  come  down  to  us  as  the  tenth  Book  of  the  "  Letters 
of  Pliny." 

This  Pliny  has  been  described  as  the  kindliest  of  Roman 
gentlemen,  but  he  was  far  more  than  that.  He  was  a  noble 
example  of  the  trained  and  cultured  patrician,  an  ardent  and 
industrious  worker,  an  honest  and  honourable  statesman  of 
no  mean  ability, — very  learned,  ambitious  only  of  political 
distinction  when  he  felt  that  high  rank  and  authority  gave 
him  ampler  scope  to  serve  his  country  and  his  fellows.  He 
was,  we  learn  from  his  own  writings,  by  no  means  a  solitary 
specimen  of  the  chivalrous  and  noble  men  who  did  so  much  to 
build  up  the  great  Empire,  and  to  render  possible  that  far- 
reaching  (t  Pax  Romana "  which  for  so  many  years  gave 
prosperity  and  a  fair  amount  of  happiness  to  the  world  known 
under  the  immemorial  name  of  Rome. 

What  we  know  of  Pliny  and  his  friends  goes  far  to  modify 
the  painful  impressions  of  Roman  society  of  the  first  two 
centuries  which  we  gather  from  the  pages  of  Juvenal  and  other 
writers,  who  have  painted  their  pictures  of  Roman  life  in  the 
first  and  second  centuries  of  the  Christian  era  in  such  lurid  and 
gloomy  colours. 

It  is  in  the  "  Letters  of  Pliny  "  that  the  real  story  of  his 
life  and  work  has  come  down  to  us.  These  letters  are  no 
ordinary  or  chance  collection.  They  are  a  finished  work  of 
great  deliberation  and  thought. 

About  a  century  and  a  half  earlier,  the  large  collection  of 
Cicero's  correspondence  was  given  to  an  admiring  and  regretful 
world.  A  renowned  statesman,  a  matchless  orator,  and  even 
greater,  the  creator  of  the  Latin  language,  which  became  a 
universal  language — the  Letters  of  Cicero  set,  as  it  were,  a  new 
fashion  in  literature.  They  were  really  the  first  in  this  special 
form  of  writing  which  at  once  became  popular. 

The  younger  Pliny  was  a  pupil  of  Quintilian,  who  was  for  a 
long  period — certainly  for  twenty  years — the  most  celebrated 
teacher  in  the  capital.  Quintilian  is  known  as  the  earliest 
of  the  Ciceronians.  The  cult  of  Ciceronianism  established  by 


Quintilian,  Pliny's  tutor,  was  the  real  origin  of  the  wonderful 
Pliny  Letters. 

Pliny  was  one  of  the  ablest  scholars  of  his  age.  He,  like 
many  of  his  countrymen,  was  ambitious  of  posthumous  fame — 
he  would  not  be  forgotten.  He  was  proud  of  his  position— 
of  his  forensic  oratory — of  his  statesmanship — of  his  various 
literary  efforts  ;  but  he  was  too  far-seeing  to  dream  of  any  of 
his  efforts  in  forensic  oratory,  or  in  the  service  of  the  State, 
or  even  in  his  various  literary  adventures  which  amused  his 
leisure  hours,  winning  him  that  posthumous  fame  which  in 
common  with  so  many  other  earnest  pagan  Romans  he  longed 

Pliny  was  an  ardent  admirer  of  Cicero  ;  but  Cicero  the 
statesman  and  the  orator,  he  felt,  moved  on  too  high  a  plane 
for  him  to  aim  at  emulating  ;  but  as  a  writer  of  Latin,  as  a 
chronicler  of  his  own  day  and  time,  as  a  word-painter  of  the 
society  in  which  he  moved,  he  might  possibly  reach  as  high  a 
pitch  of  excellence  as  Cicero  had  reached  in  his  day. 

To  accomplish  this  end  became  the  great  object  of  Pliny's 
life.  To  this  we  owe  the  inimitable  series  of  Letters  by 
which  the  friend  and  minister  of  Trajan  has  lived,  and  will 
live  on. 

In  some  respects  the  Letters  of  Pliny  are  even  more  valuable 
than  the  voluminous  and  many-coloured  correspondence  of 
Cicero.  Cicero  lived  in  a  momentous  age.  He  was  one  of 
the  chief  actors  in  a  great  revolution  which  materially  altered 
the  course  of  the  world's  history.  Pliny  lived  in  a  compara 
tively  "  still  "  period,  when  one  of  the  greatest  of  the  Roman 
sovereigns  was  at  the  helm  of  public  affairs  ;  so  in  his  picture 

1  There  is  a  striking  passage,  based  on  Pliny's  reflexions,  in  Professor 
Dill's  Roman  Society  from  Nero  to  Marcus  Aurelius,  on  this  longing  to  be  re 
membered  after  death,  so  common  to  the  Roman  (pagan)  mind. 

"  The  secret  of  immortality,  the  one  chance  of  escaping  oblivion,  is  to 
have  your  thought  embalmed  in  choice  and  distinguished  literary  form, 
which  coming  ages  will  not  willingly  let  die  (Plin.  Ep.  ii.  10.  4,  iii.  7.  14).  .  .  . 
This  longing  to  be  remembered  was  the  most  ardent  passion  of  the  Roman 
mind  in  all  ages  and  in  all  ranks  ...  of  that  immense  literary  ambition 
which  Pliny  represented,  and  which  he  considered  it  his  duty  to  foster,  only 
a  small  part  has  reached  its  goal.  .  .  .  The  great  mass  of  these  eager  littera 
teurs  have  altogether  vanished,  or  remain  to  us  as  mere  shadowy  names  in 
Martial,  or  Statius,  or  Pliny."  Book  ii.  chap.  i. 

60         THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

we  find  none  of  the  stress  and  storm  which  live  along  the 
pages  of  Cicero's  correspondence. 

It  is  an  everyday  life  which  Pliny  depicts  with  such  skill 
and  vivid  imagery,  the  life,  after  all,  which  "  finds  "  the 
majority  of  men  and  women. 

But  it  was  the  bright  side  of  ancient  society  which  Pliny 
loved  to  describe.  Without  his  Letters  we  should  have  had 
no  notion  of  the  warm  and  tender  friendships — of  the  simple 
pleasures — of  the  loving  charities — of  the  lofty  ideals  of  so 
many  of  the  elite  of  Roman  society  in  the  second  century. 

It  has  been  well  said  that  Pliny  felt  that  he  lacked  the 
power  to  write  a  great  history,  such  as  that  which  Tacitus,  with 
whom  he  \vas  closely  associated,  or  even  his  younger  friend 
Suetonius  in  an  inferior  degree,  have  given  us.  So  he  chose, 
fortunately  for  us,  to  strike  out  another  line  altogether,  a 
perfectly  new  line,  and  in  his  ten  Books  l  of  Letters  he  gives 
us  simply  a  domestic  picture  of  everyday  life  in  his  time. 

They  were  no  ordinary  Letters ;  we  can  without  any 
great  effort  of  imagination  picture  to  ourselves  the  famous 
Letter-writer  touching  and  retouching  his  correspondence. 
Some  modern  critics  in  judging  his  style  do  not  hesitate  to 
place  his  Latinity  on  a  level  with  that  of  Cicero.  Renan, 
no  mean  judge  of  style,  in  words  we  have  already  quoted, 
speaks  of  "la  langue  precieuse  et  raffinee  de  Pline." 

The  subjects  he  loved  to  dwell  on  were  sometimes  literature, 
at  others,  the  beauties  of  nature,  the  quiet  charms  of  country 
life — "  me  nihil  aeque  ac  naturae  opera  delectant,"  he  wrote 
once.  He  eloquently  describes  the  Clitumnus  fountain,  and 
the  villa  overlooking  the  Tiber  valley ;  very  elaborate  and 
graceful  are  his  descriptions  of  scenery  ;  yet  more  attractive 
to  us  are  his  pictures  of  the  "  busy  idleness  "  of  the  rich  and 
noble  of  his  day. 

Curious  and  interesting  are  the  allusions  to  and  descrip- 

1  It  seems  most  probable  that  the  first  nine  Books  of  Pliny's  Letters  were 
put  out  in  "  book  form  "  for  public  use  at  different  periods — and  subsequently 
collected  in  one  volume.  The  "  official  "  correspondence  between  Pliny  and 
Trajan  was  apparently  "  published  "  somewhat  later.  But  it  is  evident 
that  in  the  days  of  Symmachus  (end  of  fourth  century)  the  whole  had  been 
placed  together,  and  thus  made  up  the  ten  Books  we  now  possess. 


tions  of  the  reading  of  new  works,  poems,  histories,  corre 
spondence,  etc.,  before  large  gatherings  of  friends.  Some  of 
these  "  readings,"  which  evidently  formed  an  important 
feature  in  the  society  of  the  Empire,  must  often  have  been 
sadly  wearisome.  Our  writer,  for  instance,  describes  Sentius 
Augurinus  reciting  his  own  poems  during  three  whole  days. 
Pliny  expresses  his  delight  at  this  lengthy  recitation,  but  he 
confesses  that  these  constant  and  lengthy  recitations  were 
deemed  by  some  tiresome.  His  own  Letters  were  read  aloud 
to  an  appreciative  audience,  who  would  suggest  corrections 
and  changes. 

Pliny  was  quite  conscious  when  he  wrote  these  famous 
Letters,  that  he  was  writing  for  no  mere  friend  or  relative, 
but  for  a  wide  public.  He  evidently  hoped  that  they  wrould 
live  long  after  he  had  passed  away ;  it  is  doubtful,  though,  if 
he  had  ever  dreamed  that  they  would  be  read  with  interest 
and  delight  for  uncounted  centuries.  For  instance,  he  naively 
expresses  his  delight  that  his  writings  were  sold  and  read  in 
Lyons,  on  the  banks  of  the  distant  Rhone. 

He  has  been  accused  by  some,  not  otherwise  unkindly 
critics,  of  writing  for  effect — of  putting  upon  paper  finer 
feeling  than  was  absolutely  natural  to  him ;  some  of  his 
descriptions  of  nature,  for  instance,  savoured  of  affectation. 
There  may  be  some  truth  in  this  criticism.  But  it  only 
proves,  what  we  have  taken  some  pains  to  assert,  that  this 
intensely  interesting  correspondence  was  most  carefully  pre 
pared — revised  and  redacted  possibly  several  times — that  he 
wrote  to  impress  the  public.  Indeed,  throughout  the  whole 
collection  there  are  numerous  marks  of  the  most  careful 

At  the  same  time  there  are  many  natural  touches  in  which 
his  very  faults  are  curiously  manifest ;  so  in  reading  these 
letters,  in  spite  of  occasional  bursts  of  a  possible  artificial 
enthusiasm,  we  are  sensible  that  his  inner  life,  his  real  self, 
live  along  his  charming  pages ;  for  instance,  his  curious 
conceit  in  his  own  literary  power  comes  out  in  such  passages 
as  that  in  which  he  compares  himself  not  unfavourably  with 
his  dear  friend,  that  greatest  master  of  history,  Tacitus.  There 
were  other  writers  of  great  power  and  of  brilliant  genius, 

62        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

but  "  You,"  so  he  writes  to  Tacitus,  "  so  strong  was  the 
affinity  of  our  natures,  seemed  to  me  at  once  the  easiest  to 
imitate,  and  the  most  worthy  of  imitation.  Now  we  are 
named  together ;  both  of  us  have,  I  may  say,  some  name  in 
literature  ;  for  as  I  include  myself,  I  must  be  moderate  in 
my  praise  of  you." 

In  the  midst  of  these  striking  pictures  of  the  day  and  of 
the  society  of  the  quiet  and  comparatively  happy  times  of  the 
Emperor  Trajan — in  the  last  and  perhaps  the  least  interesting 
Book  of  his  correspondence — the  one  generally  known  as  the 
tenth  Book,  which  contains  his  semi-official  Letters  to  the 
Emperor,  and  some  of  Trajan's  replies, — stands  out  the  great 
Christian  episode  in  his  government  of  Bithynia  and  Pontus, 
by  far  the  most  valuable  notice  that  we  possess  of  the  numbers 
and  of  the  influence  of  the  Christian  sect  in  the  first  years  of 
the  second  century,  only  a  few  years  after  the  death  of  S.  John. 

The  reference  in  Tacitus  to  the  cruel  persecution  of  Nero, 
and  the  yet  briefer  notices  in  Suetonius,  are,  of  course,  of  the 
highest  value  ;  but  the  detailed  story  of  Pliny,  where  he  tells 
the  Emperor  actually  what  was  taking  place  in  the  province 
of  which  he  was  governor,  and  gives  us  his  own  impressions 
of  the  works  and  days  of  the  Christians,  is  and  ever  will  be 
to  the  ecclesiastical  historian  the  most  precious  testimony  of 
a  great  pagan  to  the  position  which  the  Christians  held  in 
the  Roman  Empire  some  eighty  years  after  the  Resurrection 

We  have  already,  it  will  be  remembered,  dwelt  at  some 
length  on  what  was  evidently  in  Pliny's  mind  on  the  subject — 
on  the  impressions,  after  a  careful  and  lengthy  investigation, 
which  this  unpopular  sect  made  upon  him.  He  tells  his 
imperial  friend  and  master  exactly  what  he  thought ;  and 
it  is  clear  that  the  great  Emperor  was  strangely  moved  by 
Pliny's  words,  and  framed  his  famous  rescript  upon  the  report 
in  question  on  the  gentler  lines  we  have  dwelt  upon  above. 

The  value  of  such  a  picture  of  very  early  Christian  life, 
painted  by  an  eminent  pagan  statesman  and  scholar  in  the 
midst  of  such  a  work,  so  carefully  arranged,  so  thought  out, 
prepared,  as  we  have  seen,  for  posterity,  as  the  Letters  of 
Pliny  were,  can  never  be  too  highly  valued. 



HOW  Pliny  was  admired  and  copied  in  the  Roman  world 
of  literature  we  learn  from  the  subsequent  story  of 
Roman  literature  preserved  to  us. 

With  the  exception  of  the  writings  of  Suetonius,  Pliny's 
friend,  for  a  lengthened  period  after  the  reign  of  Trajan,  an  age 
splendidly  illustrated  by  the  writings  of  Tacitus  and  Pliny, 
little  literature  has  come  down  to  us  ;  very  silent,  indeed, 
after  Trajan's  age  seems  to  have  been  the  highly  cultured 
and  literary  society  of  Rome  of  which  Pliny  writes  in  such 
vivid  and  appreciative  terms. 

Thoughtful  men  seem  to  consider  that  in  the  Roman 
Empire,  under  Hadrian,  under  the  noble  Antonine  princes 
and  their  successors,  "  the  soil,  the  race,  the  language  were 
alike  exhausted."  Be  that  as  it  may,  there  is  no  doubt  that 
from  the  time  of  Trajan  until  the  latter  days  of  the  wondrous 
story  of  Rome,  late  in  the  fourth  century,  apart  from  a  group 
of  purely  Christian  writers,  Latin  literature  was  practically 
extinct ;  certainly  it  produced  nothing  worthy  to  be  trans 
mitted  to  later  ages. 

Perhaps  a  solitary  but  not  a  very  notable  exception  might 
be  made  in  the  few  fragments  that  have  come  down  to  us  of 
Fronto,  the  tutor  and  dear  friend  of  Marcus  Aurelius.  These 
fragments  are  chiefly  pieces  of  his  correspondence  with  his 
pupils  Marcus  and  his  shortlived  colleague  in  the  Empire, 
Lucius  Verus.  It  is  not,  however,  probable  that  these  letters 
were  ever  intended  for  publication  or  for  general  reading. 
It  has  been  said  with  some  truth  that  the  Emperor  Marcus 
and  his  scholar  friend  and  tutor  wrote  to  each  other  with  the 
effusiveness  of  two  schoolgirls.1  In  one  particular  these 

1  Dr.  Mackail,  Latin  Literature,  iii.  v. 

64        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

correspondents  evidently  agreed — they  both  disliked,  and  tried 
to  despise,  the  fast  growing  Christian  community. 

Towards  the  close  of  the  fourth  century,  howrever,  when  the 
great  Emperor  Theodosius  was  fast  fading  away,  worn  out 
with  cares  and  anxieties  for  the  future  of  an  empire  which  even 
his  splendid  abilities  were  powerless  to  preserve  even  for  a 
little  season,  in  a  period  which  has  been  graphically  compared 
to  the  "  wan  lingering  light  of  a  late  autumnal  sunset," 
arose  a  few,  a  very  few  distinguished  writers,  whose  works 
posterity  has  judged  worthy  of  preservation.1 

With  two  of  the  best  known  of  these,  the  pagan  poet 
Claudian,  whose  splendid  claims  for  posthumous  fame  are 
undoubted,  and  somewhat  later  the  half-pagan,  half-Christian 
poet  Ausonius,  we  are  not  concerned  in  this  study ;  they 
were  purely  poets.  Two  other  authors,  however,  in  this  late 
evening  of  Roman  story  especially  interest  us,  as  they  carry 
on  the  tradition  on  which  we  have  been  dwelling, — the  love 
for  and  interest  in  "  letters,"  in  carefully  studied  "  corre 
spondence,"  which  the  Letters  of  Cicero  and  Pliny  made  the 
fashion  in  the  literary  society  of  imperial  Rome. 

Symmachus,  in  the  last  years  of  the  fourth  century,  and 
Sidonius  Apollinaris,  some  half  century  later  in  the  fifth  cen 
tury,  were  close  imitators  of  Pliny.  Their  Letters  have  come 
down  to  us ;  and  the  popularity  which  they  enjoyed  in  their 
own  time,  a  popularity  which  has  endured  more  or  less  in 
all  succeeding  ages,  tells  us  what  a  powerful  and  enduring 
influence  the  correspondence  of  Pliny  must  have  exercised  over 
the  old  world  of  Rome. 

Both  these  writers  belonged  to  the  highest  class  in  the 
society  of  the  dying  Empire.  Q.  Aurelius  Symmachus  had 
held  some  of  the  highest  offices  open  to  the  patrician  order,  he 
had  been  governor  of  several  important  provinces,  prefect  of 
the  city,  and  consul ;  in  his  later  years  he  was  regarded 
and  generally  treated  as  the  chief  of  the  Senate,  for  whose 
privileges  he  was  intensely  jealous  at  a  time  when  the  despotic 

1  The  purely  Christian  writings,  mainly  theological,  are  not  included  in 
this  brief  summary — able  and  brilliant  as  some  of  these  undoubtedly  were  ; 
other  causes,  apart  from  their  literary  merits,  have  largely  contributed  to 
their  preservation. 


rule  of  the  Emperor  had  reduced  the  once  proud  assembly  to 
a  group  of  shadowy  names  whose  principal  title  to  honour  and 
respect  was  the  splendid  tradition  of  a  great  past. 

This  Symmachus,  statesman  and  ardent  politician,  was  a 
writer  of  no  mean  power.  Like  Pliny,  whom  in  common  with 
all  the  literary  society  of  Rome  he  admired  and  longed  to 
imitate,  he  determined  to  go  down  to  posterity  as  a  writer  of 

These  Letters  of  his  were  read  and  re-read  in  his  day  and 
time  ;  his  contemporaries  classed  him  as  on  a  level  with  Cicero, 
and  loved  to  compare  him  with  the  younger  Pliny,  whom 
Symmachus  adopted  as  his  model.  Many  copies  were  made 
of  his  correspondence  ;  his  letters  were  treasured  up  in  precious 
caskets,  and  after  he  had  passed  away,  his  son,  Memmius 
Symmachus,  collected  them  all  together,  dividing  them,  as 
Pliny's  had  been  divided,  into  ten  Books.  Nine  of  them, 
like  the  compositions  of  the  great  writer  whom  he  strove 
to  imitate,  are  mainly  concerned  with  private  and  domestic 
matters ;  the  tenth,  as  in  the  case  of  Pliny,  being  made  up 
of  official  communications  which  had  passed  between  his 
father  and  the  reigning  Emperor. 

It  is  somewhat  dull  reading  this  "  Symmachus  "  corre 
spondence,  but  it  gives  us  a  picture  of  the  nobler  and  purer 
portion  of  Roman  society  in  the  closing  years  of  the  fourth 
century.  He  was  too  good  a  scholar,  too  able  a  man,  not  to 
see  his  inferiority  to  Pliny  ;  and  evidently  he  had  his  doubts 
respecting  the  claim  of  his  correspondence  to  immortality, 
and  he  apologizes  for  their  barrenness  of  interesting  incident  ; 
but  his  contemporaries  and  his  devoted  son  thought  other 
wise,  and  to  their  loyal  admiration  we  owe  the  preservation 
of  his  carefully  prepared  and  corrected,  though  somewhat 
tedious,  imitation  of  the  charming  Letters  of  Pliny. 

Sidonius  Apollinaris,  who  flourished  a  little  more  than 
half  a  century  later,  belonged  also  to  the  great  Roman  world  ; 
he  was  born  at  Lyons  about  A.D.  430,  and  partly  owing  to  the 
elevation  of  his  father-in-law  Avitus  to  the  imperial  throne, 
was  rapidly  preferred  to  several  of  the  great  offices  of  the 
Empire — amongst  these  to  the  prefecture  of  Rome.  His 
undoubted  ability,  his  high  character,  and  great  position 

66        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

and  fortune  led  to  his  election  by  popular  voice  to  the  bishopric 
of  Clermont  (though  not  in  Holy  orders),  the  episcopal  city  of 
his  native  Auvergne  in  Gaul.  In  his  new  and  to  him  strange 
position  there  is  no  doubt  that  he  fulfilled  the  expectation 
of  the  people  who  chose  him  as  bishop  ;  and  when,  some  fifteen 
or  twenty  years  after  his  election,  in  the  great  Auvergne  diocese, 
he  passed  away,  he  was  deeply,  even  passionately,  mourned  by 
his  flock.  He  had  been  their  devoted  pastor,  their  helper 
and  defender  in  the  troublous  and  anxious  period  of  the 
Visigothic  occupation  of  Southern  Gaul. 

Sidonius  Apollinaris  was  a  poet  of  some  power,  and  a 
graceful  and  fluent  writer  of  panegyrics  of  great  personages 
which  in  that  age  were  much  in  vogue.  He  was  also 
deeply  read  in  the  literature  to  which  so  many  of  the  leaders 
of  Roman  society  in  the  late  evening  of  the  Empire  were 
ardently  devoted. 

But  it  is  from  his  "  Correspondence  "  that  this  eminent 
representative  of  the  patrician  order  in  the  last  days  of  the 
Empire  will  ever  be  remembered.  We  possess  some  hundred 
and  forty-seven  of  his  letters.  They  were  collected  and  revised 
by  him  after  he  became  Bishop  of  Clermont.  Their  publication 
is  usually  dated  between  the  years  477  and  488.  The  letters 
were  divided  according  to  ancient  models,  Pliny  being  the 
principal  model,  into  nine  Books.  (There  was  no  tenth  Book 
of  official  correspondence  in  his  case.) 

In  their  present  form,  revised  and  redacted  by  the  writer 
himself,  very  many  of  the  letters  read  as  though  intended  for 
a  public  far  wider  than  the  individuals  to  whom  the  communica 
tions  were  originally  addressed  ;  and  it  is  more  than  probable 
that  from  a  comparatively  early  period,  Sidonius  intended 
to  follow  a  well-known  practice,  and  wrote  many  of  his  letters 
with  a  view  to  their  being  preserved  as  pieces  of  literature. 
He  even  tells  us  he  proposed  to  be  an  imitator  of  Symmachus, 
his  predecessor  in  this  special  form  of  writing  by  some  fifty 
or  sixty  years ;  and  Symmachus,  we  know,  was  an  ardent 
admirer  and  imitator  of  Pliny. 

The  Letters,  however,  of  Sidonius  possess  a  far  wider  interest 
for  us  than  the  correspondence  of  Symmachus.  Symmachus 
is  dull  and  even  prosy,  partly  from  his  exaggerated  attention 


to  Pliny's  rule  which  he  suggested  to  one  of  his  correspondents 
on  the  subject  of  letter-writing.  The  letter-writer,  said 
Pliny,  must  aim  at  a  style  at  once  compressed  and  accurate 
in  its  form  of  expression  (presses  sermo  purusque  ex  Epistolis 
petitur}.  Sidonius,  on  the  other  hand,  is  diffuse  and  often 
picturesque,  and  his  language  is  enriched  or  disfigured  by  an 
ample  and  often  a  barbarous  vocabulary,  drawn  from  the 
popular  dialect  into  which  the  Latin  of  Cicero  and  Pliny 
was  fast  declining  when  the  Bishop  of  Clermont  wrote.  His 
correspondents  were  many  and  various,  including,  it  appears, 
some  seventeen  contemporary  bishops. 

On  the  whole,  the  Letters  of  Sidonius  give  a  vivid  and  even 
a  brilliant  picture  of  the  highly  cultivated  life  of  the  noble  and 
upper  classes  of  the  fast  fading  Empire  of  the  fifth  century. 

Briefly  to  sum  up  what  we  have  said  in  this  second 
study  of  Pliny's  Letters.  We  have  dwelt  on  the  great  im 
portance  of  Pliny's  picture  of  Christianity  in  the  first  years  of 
the  second  century  ;  for  it  was 

ist.  A  picture  painted  by  a  great  Roman  (pagan)  states 
man  ;  and 

2nd.  Though  it  appears  in  a  letter,  the  letter  was  one  of  a 
collection  of  Letters  intended  for  future  generations. 
Pliny  here  copied  Cicero,  who  really  may  be  said  to 
have  "  invented  "  this  novel  and  peculiar  form  of 
literature,  i.e.  letters  written  not  merely  for  private 
friends  and  officials,  but  for  the  public,  and 
intended  to  be  handed  down,  if  they  were  found 
worthy,  to  after  ages. 

The  "  silence  "  of  all  Latin  literature  after  the  age  of 
Pliny  for  some  two  hundred  and  seventy  years,  of  course 
prevents  citing  any  examples  of  such  letters,  written  for  public 
use  and  for  posterity,  during  this  "  silent  "  period. 

But  after  this  "  silence,"  a  brief  renaissance  of  Latin  litera 
ture  took  place. 

In  this  renaissance  the  works  of  only  two  prose  writers  of 
great  reputation  have  been  preserved  for  us.  Both  these  were 
most  distinguished  men  in  the  political  world  and  in  the  world 
of  literature. 

68        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

And  these  two  chose  to  copy  Pliny's  plan  of  letter- 
writing,  i.e.,  letters  composed  for  public  use  and  intended  for 

The  two  were  Symmachus  and  Sidonius  Apollinaris. 

After  this  brief  renaissance  of  Letters  a  veil  of  darkness 
fell  over  the  Roman  world. 



WHEN  we  consider  how  in  the  first  century  of  the 
Christian  era  it  was  a  frequent  custom  to  clothe 
literature  of  all  kinds  in  the  letter  form,  and  how 
popular  amongst  all  classes  and  orders  was  this  method 
—so  to  speak — of  literary  expression,  when  associated  with 
it  were,  among  a  crowd  of  comparatively  undistinguished 
authors,  such  personalities  as  Cicero,  Seneca,  and  Pliny, 
whose  letters  as  pieces  of  literature  obtained  at  once  an 
enormous  popularity  which  has  never  really  waned,1  it 
becomes  a  grave  and  interesting  question  :  Did  this  fashion, 
this  method,  this  singularly  popular  form  of  writing,  affect  the 
great  New  Testament  writers,  and  induce  them  to  cast  their 
sublime  inspired  thoughts  in  this  special  form,  which  certainly, 
when  the  apostles  put  out  their  writings,  was  a  loved  and 
admired  literary  method  ? 

The  fact  of  so  large  a  portion  of  the  New  Testament  writ 
ings  being  cast  in  "  letter  form  "  is  striking  ;  it  is  quite  different 
from  anything  that  we  find  in  the  Old  Testament  Scriptures, 
where,  save  in  one  solitary  instance  (Jer.  xxix.),  nothing  in 
the  letter  form  appears  in  that  wonderful  compilation 
which  embraces  so  many  subjects,  and  which  in  the 
composition  spread  over  many  centuries ;  but  we  are  so 
accustomed  to  the  New  Testament  writings,  that  the  fact  of  a 
very  large  portion  of  the  collection  of  its  inspired  writings 
being  in  "  letter  "  form  does  not  at  first  appear  strange  or 

We  may  preface  the  few  suggestions  which  follow  with  the 

1  We  might  also  cite  here  the  well-known  "  poetic  "  epistles  of  Ovid  and 


70        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

remark,  that  whether  or  no  the  suggestion  be  entertained  as  a 
possible,  even  as  a  probable  thought,  the  fact  of  "  inspiration  " 
—the  fact  of  the  New  Testament  writings  referred  to  being 
"  the  word  of  God  "  —is  not  in  the  slightest  degree  affected. 
For  it  is  the  substance  of  the  divine  message,  not  the  "  colour  " 
or  "  material  "  of  the  clothing  of  the  message,  which  is  of 
such  paramount  importance. 

The  question  of  the  "  colour  "  and  "  material  "  of  the 
message's  clothing,  the  consideration  in  what  it  is  clothed,  is 
deeply  interesting  ;  but,  after  all,  is  nothing  more. 

The  "  message  "  which  we  believe  to  be  from  God  remains 
the  same — be  it  enclosed  in  a  "  pamphlet,"  in  a  "  treatise," 
in  a  "  study  "  (elude),  or  in  a  "  letter  "  form. 

Nothing  like  an  analysis  of  the  New  Testament  Epistles, 
some  of  which  will  be  briefly  referred  to  in  the  course  of  this 
study,  will  be  attempted.  Such  an  analysis  would  not,  of 
course,  enter  into  the  scheme  of  the  present  work. 

We  would  first  indicate  some  at  least  of  the  New  Testament 
Letters  which  certainly  seem  to  be  more  than  letters  in  the 
ordinary  sense  of  the  word — which,  indeed,  are  "  settings  "  to 
short  theological  treatises  containing  statements  of  the  highest 
doctrinal  import. 

These  "  Letters  "  were  evidently  intended  for  a  far  more 
extended  circle  of  readers  than  the  congregations  immediately 

We  have  already  in  a  previous  section  quoted  the  three 
Epistles  of  S.  Paul  written  during  his  first  imprisonment,1 
A.D.  61-3  (viz.  the  Epistles  to  the  Colossians,  Philippians,  and 
Ephesians),  as  embodying  some  of  the  more  weighty  and  im 
portant  doctrinal  teachings  of  the  great  apostle  put  out  during 
the  period  in  which  S.  Paul  preached  to  the  Christians  of 
the  capital,  and  thus  and  then  earned  his  well-known  and 
acknowledged  claim  to  be  one  of  the  two  "  founders  "  of  the 
Church  of  Rome — S.  Peter  being  the  other. 

One  of  the  reasons,  no  doubt,  of  the  vast  and  long-enduring 

1  The  Epistles  of  Paul  to  the  Romans  and  to  the  Galatians  are  not  quoted, 
but  they  are  conspicuous  examples  of  great  doctrinal  teaching  embodied  in 
the  letter  form.  In  a  lesser  degree  the  same  remark  is  applicable  to  the  two 
Letters  to  the  Thessalonians  and  the  First  Epistle  to  the  Corinthians. 


popularity  of  the  "  letter  "  form  of  literature  was  the  intro 
duction  of  quasi-confidential  remarks,  which  gave  a  freshness, 
a  breath  of  everyday  life  to  the  composition  ;  or,  to  use  another 
image,  the  "  Letter  "  might  even  be  termed  a  picturesque 
and  attractive  "  setting "  to  the  graver,  the  more  serious 
thoughts  contained  in  the  writing. 

This  is  well  exemplified  in  the  famous  collection  of  the 
correspondence  of  Cicero,  of  whose  Letters  it  has  been 
happily  written  that  the  majority  are  "  brief  confidential 
outpourings  of  the  moment."  The  same  purely  human 
colouring  is  manifest  in  the  Letters  of  Seneca,  written  from 
the  year  57  and  onwards ;  this  is  even  more  especially 
noticeable  in  the  Letters  of  the  younger  Pliny. 

There  are,  however,  certain  of  the  Pauline  Epistles  which 
partake  more  closely  of  the  nature  of  private  letters,  and  which 
scarcely  seem  intended  for  public  circulation — notably  the 
Second  Epistle  to  the  Corinthians  and  the  little  letter  to 

Professor  Deissmann,  of  Heidelberg,  who  has  written  at 
some  length  on  the  subject,  differs  somewhat  from  the  general 
view  taken  here  of  S.  Paul's  writings  ;  but  while  expressing  his 
doubts  as  to  whether  any  of  the  Pauline  Epistles  were  really 
written  by  the  apostle  with  a  view  to  publication,  he  unhesi 
tatingly  decides  that  amongst  the  New  Testament  writings 
the  Epistle  to  the  Hebrews,  the  First  Epistle  of  John,  the 
First  Epistle  of  Peter,  the  Epistles  of  James  and  Jude,  were 
most  certainly  written  in  "  letter  "  form  for  general  circulation. 

As  early  certainly  as  the  third  century,  the  Christian 
Church  placed  the  so-called  Catholic  Epistles  as  a  group  apart 
among  the  canonical  writings  and  termed  them  "  Catholic  " 
or  universal,  as  addressed  to  no  one  special  congregation. 
This  is  absolutely  true  in  the  cases  of  the  Epistles  of  i  Peter, 
James,  Jude,  and  i  John,  above  referred  to. 

The  First  Epistle  of  Peter  is  addressed  to  a  vast  number 
of  the  "  Dispersion,"  who,  the  apostle  says,  were  sojourning  in 
the  provinces  of  Pontus,  Galatia,  Cappadocia,  and  Bithynia, 
—these  provinces  almost  covering  the  region  now  popularly 
known  as  Asia  Minor. 

James  wrote  to  the  twelve  tribes  scattered  abroad. 

72        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

John  in  his  First  Epistle  gives  no  address  at  all,  leaving 
his  Letter  perfectly  general — or  universal. 

Jude,  too,  names  no  particular  congregation,  but  simply 
writes  to  those  that  are* "  sanctified  by  God  the  Father,  and 
preserved  in  Jesus  Christ  and  called." 

In  the  Epistle  "to  the  Hebrews"  the  writer  is  unnamed, 
and  there  is  no  mention  of  those  to  whom  the  anonymous 
"  Letter  "  is  addressed.  It  is,  however,  clear  from  the  tenor 
of  the  "  Letter  "  that  it  was  addressed  to  Jewish  Christians, 
and  probably  to  Jewish  Christians  settled  in  Rome. 

The  "  Pastoral  "  Epistles,  so  called  (including  i  and  2 
Timothy  and  Titus),  were  evidently  intended  for  general 

We  may  therefore  conclude  that  the  greater  number 
of  the  New  Testament  Letters — certainly  the  four  principal 
"  Catholic  "  Epistles  and  the  great  Epistle  to  the  Hebrews, 
and  the  Epistles  of  S.  Paul  with  the  exceptions  above  noted, 
influenced  by  the  analogy  of  other  collections  of  Letters  made 
in  the  same  age,  were  written  in  "  letter  "  form,  but  were 
intended  for  a  large  group  of  readers.  This  particular  "  letter  " 
form  being  adopted  owing  to  the  great  popularity,  throughout 
the  Roman  Empire,  of  this  special  description  of  literature. 

Thus  it  is  evident  that  the  great  Christian  teachers  to  a 
certain  extent  adopted  the  most  loved  popular  literary  forms 
of  the  age  in  which  they  lived,  especially  choosing  the  letter 
form  which  such  distinguished  writers  as  Cicero,  Seneca,  and  a 
little  later  the  younger  Pliny  adopted. 

While  the  "  Acts  of  the  Apostles  "  more  or  less  followed 
the  literary  method  of  profane  historical  literature,  with  its 
picturesque  insertion  of  "  speeches,"  "  letters,"  and  "  official 
papers";  while  the  "Revelation  of  S.  John"  more  or  less 
followed  the  method  adopted  in  Jewish  apocalyptic  literature 
of  the  famous  Alexandrian  school :  alone  the  Gospels  are  abso 
lutely  an  original  form — a  literary  form  which  originated  within 
Christianity  itself — a  literary  form  which  stands  out  alone.  It 
imitated  nothing,  it  followed  no  classical  or  Jewish  examples — 
no  models,  however  beautiful,  attractive,  or  popular  ;  nor  has 
it  ever  been  imitated  in  all  the  Christian  ages,  stretching  over 
more  than  eighteen  centuries,  simply  because  it  is  inimitable. 



And  when  the  Catholic  Church  judged,  and  as  we  see  now 
wisely  judged,  that  the  Voice  of  Inspiration  was  hushed,  we 
find  that  the  literary  remains  of  the  primitive  age  of  Christi 
anity  which  have  been  preserved  to  us  are  cast  in  the  same 
"letter"  form,  those  few  literary  remains  which  have 
received  the  lofty  title  of  "  Apostolic."  The  word  comes  to 
us  from  Ignatius,  and  seems  to  bear  the  meaning  that  the 
writers  of  these  "  remains  "  were  historically  connected  with 
the  apostles. 

These  writings  properly  so  styled  come  from  four  persons — 
from  (i)  Clement  (of  Rome),  of  whom  the  tradition,  constant 
and  definite,  tells  us  he  was  the  disciple  of  Peter  and  also  of 

(2)  From  Ignatius,  whose  early  date  and  connexion  with 
Antioch,  a  chief  centre  of  apostolic  work,  render,  as  Light- 
foot  well  urges,  his  personal  intercourse  with  apostles  at  least 
probable.     The  earliest  tradition  represents  Ignatius  as  the 
second  of   the  Antiochene  bishops.      His   martyrdom    must 
be  dated  circa  A.D.   no.     He  was    evidently   then    an   old 
man.      He  was  certainly  a  younger  contemporary  of    some 
of  the  apostles. 

(3)  From  Polycarp,  whose  close  connexion  in  youth  with 
S.  John   is  indisputable,  since    his    own  disciple,    the    well- 
known  Irenaeus,  tells  us  that  Polycarp  was  a  scholar  of  the 
beloved  disciple  ;  and  that  he  (Irenaeus)  had  heard  from  his 
master,  Polycarp,  many  anecdotes  of  the  apostles,  which  he 
had  treasured  up  in  his  memory. 

(4)  From  Barnabas,  whose  immediate  connexion  with  the 
apostle  is  less  certain  ;    but   the  early  date  of  his  Epistle, 
written  apparently  during  the  days  of  the  Flavian  dynasty, 
would  render  the  ancient  traditions  of  this  connexion  at  least 
highly  probable. 

These  writings,  few  and  humble,  which  have  come  down  to 
us,  are  all  we  can  with  any  certainty  ascribe  to  "  Apostolic  " 
men;  and  they  are  all  cast  in  "  letter- form,"  viz.,  the  one 
somewhat  lengthy  Epistle  of  Clement,  the  seven  authentic 
Epistles  of  Ignatius,  the  one  brief  Epistle  of  Polycarp,  the 

74        THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH  AFTER  A.D.  64 

one  (of  considerable  length)  Epistle  of  Barnabas.  These 
Epistles  are  genuine  "Letters,"  and  "represent  the  natural 
outpouring  of  personal  feeling  arising  out  of  personal  re 
lations  "  ;  but  they  contain  doctrinal  statements  of  the  deepest 
importance,  notably  emphatic  or  positive  statements  bearing 
on  the  Godhead  of  Jesus  Christ.1 

These  Epistles 2  were  obviously  meant  by  the  writers  for  a 
far  more  extended  circle  of  readers  than  the  congregations  of 
Corinth,  Philippi,  Rome,  etc.,  to  whom  the  Letters  were 
formally  addressed. 

1  The  words  which  occur  in  "  the  address  "  of  the  Letters  of  Ignatius  to 
the  Christian  congregation  in  the  city  of  Tralles  are  remarkable.     "  The  holy 
Church  which  is  in  Tralles  of  Asia  I  salute  .  .  .  after  the  manner  of  the 
apostle    (ev    diro<rroXiAr£    x°-PaKTW1)'"     This   Bishop   Lightfoot  explains   as   a 
reference  of  Ignatius  to  the  Epistolary  form  of  his  communication,  that  being 
a  usual  form  adopted  by  the  apostles. 

2  Hennas,    whose  writings   are    usually   classed   with    the  works  of   the 
"  Apostolic  Fathers,"  does  not  fall  into  this  category. 

(a)  There  is  some  doubt  as  to  whether  Hennas  can  be  rightly  considered 
an  "Apostolic  Father." 

(b)  His  writings  are   not   cast   in   the   Epistolary  form,    but  are  purely 
theological  treatises  or  pamphlets. 

They  are  partially  examined   below  (see  pp.  178-84)  with  reference  to 
their  date,  authorship,  and  contents  generally. 


HADRIAN,  A.D.  U7-A.D.  138 

SOME  four  years  after  his  correspondence  with  Pliny  on 
the  subject  of  the  Christians  in  Bithynia,  the  Emperor 
Trajan  died  somewhat  suddenly  in  the  course  of  his 
Eastern  campaign,  at  the  Cilician,  town  of  Selinus  (A.D.  117). 

Trajan  was  succeeded  by  his  kinsman  Hadrian,  who  had 
married  the  Emperor's  great-niece  Julia  Sabina.  The  circum 
stances  of  Hadrian's  succession  are  somewhat  confused.  It 
was  given  out  generally  that  he  had  been  adopted  by  Trajan 
as  his  successor.  It  is  certain,  however,  that  his  pretensions 
to  the  imperial  power  were  favoured  by  Trajan's  Empress, 
Plotina,  and  some  even  ascribe  his  succession  largely  to  a 
palace  intrigue  ;  it  is  clear  that  no  real  opposition  to  his 
peaceable  assumption  of  the  imperial  power  was  offered. 

It  is  regrettable  that  we  possess  no  notable  contemporary 
history  of  one  of  the  most  remarkable  of  the  Roman  Emperors. 
How  intensely  interesting  would  have  been  a  picture  by 
Tacitus  of  so  extraordinary  and  unique  a  personality  ! 

What  we  know  of  Hadrian  and  his  reign  of  twenty-one 
years  we  gather  principally  from  the  pages  of  Spartianus,  one 
of  the  six  writers  of  the  Augustan  history  who  lived  in  the 
days  of  Diocletian,  more  than  a  century  and  a  half  later,  and 
from  some  brief  notices  of  Dion  Cassius,  of  the  Emperor 
Julian,  and  of  three  or  four  other  writers  who  have  given  us 
short  sketches  of  his  life,  and  also  from  a  somewhat  longer 
account  of  the  eleventh  century  monk  Xiphilinus,  and  from 
notices  on  medals  and  inscriptions. 

The    Emperor    Hadrian   was  no   ordinary  man.      Rarely 

76          THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH,  A.D.  117-138 

gifted  with  various  and  varied  talents,  he  delighted  to  appear 
before  the  Roman  world  as  a  soldier  and  a  statesman,  as  an 
artist  and  a  poet ;  and  in  each  of  them,  certainly  in  the  first 
two  characters,  he  occupied  a  fairly  distinguished  position. 
To  the  world  he  has  gone  down  as  a  great  traveller.  He  was 
not  content  with  sitting  at  the  helm  of  his  Empire  in  Rome,  or 
in  one  of  his  magnificent  villas  in  Italy  ;  he  would  see  each  of 
his  many  provinces  and  their  chief  cities  with  his  own  eyes, 
and  then  judge  what  was  best  for  them, — how  he  could  best 
improve  their  condition  and  develop  their  resources. 

During  his  reign  there  were  few,  indeed,  of  the  chief 
cities  of  the  Roman  world  which  he  had  not  visited, — few 
which  did  not  receive  in  some  fashion  or  other  the  stamp 
of  his  presence  among  them.  He  was  accompanied  usually 
with  a  vast  trained  staff,  as  we  should  term  it,  of  experts  in 
arts  and  crafts,  of  painters,  sculptors,  architects,  and  skilled 

He  had,  of  course,  immense  resources  at  his  command, 
for  he  was  a  great  financier,  and  was  able  with  little  effort  to 
draw  vast  sums  for  the  magnificent  works  he  carried  on  in  all 
parts  of  the  Empire.  The  world  had  never  seen,  will  probably 
never  see  again,  a  great  building  sovereign  like  Hadrian  ;  and 
though  he  restored,  decorated,  rebuilt  baths,  amphitheatres, 
stately  municipal  buildings,  and  in  many  instances  whole 
cities,  often  named  after  himself,1  he  never  seems  to  have 
neglected  Rome  ;  for  the  traces  of  his  expensive  works  there 
are  still  to  be  seen,  while  he  watched  over  and  lavishly  kept 
up  the  costly  amusements  so  dear  to  the  luxurious  and  pleasure- 
loving  capital.  In  one  day,  for  instance,  we  read  of  a  hundred 
lions  being  slain  in  the  arena  of  the  great  Roman  theatre, 
while  his  doles  to  the  people  were  ever  on  a  lavish  scale.  Rome 
was  never  allowed  to  suffer  for  the  absence  or  for  the  immense 
foreign  expenditure  of  the  imperial  traveller. 

But  Hadrian  was  not  a  good  man,  though  he  was  a  mag 
nificent  sovereign.  His  life  was  made  up  of  the  strangest 

1  Seventeen  of  these  cities  so  named  are  commemorated  on  extant  coins 
and  medals  ;  and  this  number  is  largely  increased  by  some  writers.  These 
cities  of  Hadrian  bearing  his  name  were  situated  in  various  districts  of  the 
Roman  world,  notably  in  Asia  Minor,  North  Africa,  Spain,  Syria,  Pannonia. 


contradictions.  At  times  he  played  the  part  almost  of  an 
ascetic,  abstaining  from  wine  in  his  repasts,  and  even  sub 
mitting  to  the  work  and  fatigues  of  an  ordinary  legionary 
soldier.  At  times  his  life  was  disfigured  by  the  grossest 
excesses  and  debauchery.1  His  attitude  towards  Christianity 
especially  concerns  us.  He  had  no  religion,  no  faith.  He  was 
interested  in  all  cults  to  a  certain  extent,  was  even  initiated 
into  the  mysteries  of  some  of  the  old  pagan  beliefs  ;  and  while 
he  accepted  nothing,  he  denied  nothing. 

His  famous  rescript  to  Serenus  Granianus,  now  generally 
accepted  as  genuine,  gives  us  some  conception  of  his  estimate 
of  Christianity,  at  least  in  the  earlier  portion  of  his  reign.  It 
virtually  endorses  what  Trajan  had  written  to  Pliny  in  the 
matter  of  the  Bithynian  Christians.  They  were  not  to  be 
hunted  out,  but  if  legally  convicted  as  Christians  they  were 
to  surfer.  Hadrian,  certainly  in  his  earlier  years,  even  went 
further  in  the  direction  of  toleration  than  his  predecessor. 
An  informer,  unless  he  could  prove  the  truth  of  his  accusation, 
would  be  subject  to  the  severest  penalties  of  the  law. 

But  Hadrian,  like  Trajan  who  reigned  before  him,  and 
Antoninus  Pius  who  succeeded  him  on  the  imperial  throne, 
knew  very  little  of  Christianity.  It  is  more  than  doubtful  if 
he  had  ever  seen  a  Gospel ;  and  although  his  sense  of  justice 
and  his  perfect  indifference  to  all  religions  dictated  the  terms 
and  inspired  the  tone  of  the  famous  rescript  in  question, 
in  common  with  all  Roman  statesmen  he  evidently  disliked 
and  even  feared  the  strange  faith  which  was  gradually  gaining 
ground  so  rapidly  in  the  world  of  Rome. 

This  dislike  of  Christianity,  which  some  historians  char 
acterize  in  Hadrian's  case  as  positively  hatred  of  the  faith,  was 
shown  markedly  in  the  latter  years  of  his  life  by  the  deliberate 
insults  which  he  offered  to  the  most  sacred  Christian  memories 
in  Jerusalem  after  the  close  of  the  terrible  Jewish  war  in  A.D. 
135.  Some  modern  writers  have  pleaded  that  no  special 
profanation  was  intended  by  Hadrian  when  the  building  of 
££lia  Capitolina  on  the  site  of  Jerusalem  was  proceeded  with 

1  De  Champagny,  Les  Antonins,  iii.  I,  tersely  and  well  sums  up  his  character: 
"  II  a  tous  les  dons,  et  toutes  les  faiblesses,  toutes  les  grandeurs,  et  toutes  les 
puerilitees,  toutes  les  ambitions." 

78          THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH,  A.D.  117-138 

after  the  Jewish  war  ;  but  the  testimony  of  Christian  writers l 
here  is  very  positive.  An  image  of  Jupiter  was  placed  on  the 
Mount  of  the  Ascension  ;  a  statue  of  Venus  was  adored  on  the 
hill  of  Golgotha  ;  Bethlehem  was  dedicated  to  Adonis,  and  a 
sacred  grove  was  planted  there  ;  and  the  impure  Phoenician 
rites  were  actually  celebrated  in  the  grotto  of  the  Nativity. 

But  for  the  historian  of  the  first  days  of  Christianity,  by 
far  the  most  important  event  in  this  brilliant  reign  of  Hadrian 
was  the  fatal  Jewish  war  of  A.D.  133-5  and  its  striking  results. 
This  was  the  war  of  extermination,  as  the  Talmud  subsequently 
termed  it  ;  the  war  in  which  the  false  Messiah  Bar-cochab  and 
the  famous  Rabbi  Akiba  were  the  most  prominent  figures. 
The  outcome  of  this  terrible  war  was  the  absolute  destruction 
of  the  nationality  of  the  Jewish  people.  From  henceforth,  i.e. 
after  A.D.  134-5,  the  whole  spirit  of  the  Jews  was  changed  ;  they 
lived  from  this  time  with  new  ideals,  with  new  and  different 
hopes  and  aims.  This  wonderful  change  we  have  described  at 
some  length  and  with  many  details  in  Book  V.  of  this  work. 

From  this  time  forward,  there  is  no  doubt  that  the  concep 
tion  which  Roman  statesmen  had  formed  of  Christianity  under 
went  a  marked  change.  Hitherto,  more  or  less,  the  Christian 
was  regarded  as  a  Jewish  dissenter,  and  was  viewed  at  Rome 
with  dislike,  but  at  the  same  time  with  a  certain  contemptuous 
toleration  provided  that  he  kept  out  of  sight.  Trajan  evidently, 
from  the  Pliny  correspondence,  was  averse  to  harsh  persecution 
if  it  could  be  avoided  ;  and  Hadrian,  certainly  in  his  earlier 
years,  followed  the  policy  of  Trajan.  But  after  A.D.  135  all 
this  was  changed.  The  Jewish  people  after  the  termination 
of  the  last  bitter  war  passed  into  stillness. 

They  now  rigidly  abstained  from  admitting  any  stranger 
Gentiles  into  the  charmed  circle  of  Judaism,  sternly  forbidding 
any  proselytizing.  They  abandoned  all  earthly  ambition — 
their  hope  and  expectation  of  seeing  their  land  independent 
and  powerful  was  relegated  to  a  dim  and  distant  future. 
They  believed  that  they  were  the  chosen  people  in  far  back  days 

1  Cf.  Jerome,  Ep.  58,  Ad  Paulin,  3  ;  Euseb.  Devita  Constant,  iii.  26;  Sozo- 
men,  i.  I  ;  St.  Paulin,  Ep.  31  (ii.)  ad  Severum  ;  Rufin.  H.  E.  i.  8  ;  Sulp.  Severus, 
ii.  25,  45  ;  Ambrose,  Psalm  43  ;  and  in  modern  historians,  cf.  De  Vogue's 
Eglises  de  la  terre  sainte,  iii.  ;  De  Champagny,  Les  Antonins,  livre  iii.  c.  iii. 


of  the  Eternal  of  Hosts — they  would  quietly  wait  His  good 
pleasure,  and  by  a  rigid  observance  in  all  its  minutest  details 
of  the  divine  law,  which  they  made  the  sole  object  of  their 
study  and  meditation,  would  merit  once  more  His  favour  ; 
they  hoped  and  expected  at  some  distant  day  again  to  rejoice 
in  the  light  of  His  countenance, — a  light,  alas  !  long  since 
veiled  owing  to  their  past  disobedience  ;  to  the  Christian  and 
his  teaching  in  the  meantime  they  vowed  an  implacable  hatred. 

It  then  began  (after  A.D.  134-5),  slowly  at  first,  to  dawn 
upon  the  statesmen  of  Rome  that  the  Christian  was  no  mere 
Jewish  dissenter,  but  a  member  of  a  new  and  perfectly  distinct 
community,  a  sect  intensely  in  earnest,  successful  in  making 
proselytes,  possessing,  too,  a  secret  power  which  the  Roman 
statesman  marvelled  at  but  was  incapable  of  understanding,— 
a  secret  power  which  made  the  Christian  absolutely  fearless 
of  death  and  utterly  regardless  of  any  punishment  human 
ingenuity  could  devise  ;  a  sect,  too,  which,  quite  independent 
of  the  Jews,  daily  was  multiplying,  and  was  rapidly  numbering 
in  its  ranks  men  and  women  of  every  calling,  drawn,  too,  from 
every  province  indifferently  in  the  wide  Roman  empire,— 
becoming,  indeed,  an  Empire  within  an  Empire. 

But  the  subjects  of  this  inner  Empire,  while  loyal  to  the 
State,  obedient,  and  peaceful,  dwelt  as  it  were  as  a  nation 
apart,  professing  an  allegiance  to  an  invisible  Power  unknown 
to  the  ancient  traditions  of  Rome,  and  irreconcilably  hostile 
to  the  ancient  religion  on  which  the  true  Roman  loved  to 
believe  the  grandeur  of  the  Empire  was  based. 

The  consciousness  of  all  this  may  be  said  to  have  really 
dawned  upon  Roman  statesmen  only  after  the  great  change 
which  passed  over  Judaism  at  the  close  of  the  awful  war  of 
Hadrian, — a  change  which  showed  for  the  first  time  the  broad 
gulf  which  yawned  between  the  Jewish  people  and  the  new 
Christian  community. 

The  last  two  years  of  Hadrian's  reign,  which  immediately 
followed  the  close  of  the  great  Jewish  war,  were  marked  by 
the  adoption  of  a  new  and  severer  policy  by  the  State  in  regard 
to  Christians.  We  hear  of  cases  of  extreme  harshness  in  the 
case  of  the  treatment  of  Christians  by  the  State.  Many  stories 
of  martyrdom  date  from  this  period.  This  stern  policy  was 

80          THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH,  A.D.  117-138 

pursued  through  the  reign  of  the  blameless  Antoninus  Pius, 
and  became  yet  more  pronounced  and  severe  in  the  years  of 
his  successor,  the  yet  nobler  and  purely  patriotic  Marcus, 
under  whose  rule,  beneficent  and  just  though  it  generally 
was,  the  Christians  suffered  as  they  had  never  suffered  before. 

For  the  first  time  after  the  close  of  the  great  Jewish  war, 
A.D.  I33-A.D.  135,  the  imperial  government  recognised  what 
a  grave  danger  to  the  Roman  polity,  to  its  ancient  religion 
and  its  beliefs,  was  Christianity. 

For  more  than  sixty  years — that  is,  from  the  day  that 
Nero  charged  the  then  comparatively  little  band  of  Roman 
Christians  with  being  the  authors  of  the  great  fire  which  re 
duced  so  large  a  portion  of  Rome  to  ashes — had  the  sword  of 
persecution  hung  over  the  Christian  communities.  From 
that  day,  the  follower  of  Jesus  was  an  outlaw  in  the  great 
Empire.  His  home,  his  life,  were  exposed  to  a  perpetual 
danger ;  ever  and  anon  a  period  of  bitter  persecution  set  in, 
and  lives  were  sacrificed  and  homes  were  wrecked  to  gratify 
some  wild  and  senseless  popular  clamour,  or  even  as  the 
result  of  some  private  and  often  malicious  information.  There 
was  no  security  any  more  for  a  member  of  the  proscribed  sect. 

It  is  true  that  a  great  and  wise  Emperor  like  Trajan  re 
luctantly  allowed  the  law  as  it  stood  to  be  carried  out,  but 
he  made  no  effort  to  change  it  or  to  mitigate  its  stern  penalties. 
Hadrian,  certainly  in  his  early  and  middle  life,  was  like  his 
predecessor  generally  averse  to  harrying  the  quiet  sect,  and 
his  well-known  rescript  even  threatened  the  severest  penalties 
to  the  false  informer  who  denounced  a  Christian ;  but  in  spite 
of  these  just  efforts  the  Christian  lived  in  a  state  of  perpetual 
unrest, — a  martyr's  death  was  ever  before  the  eyes  of  one  who 
elected  to  be  a  follower  of  Jesus.  This  position  of  the  Chris 
tians  in  the  Roman  Empire  continued  from  A.D.  64-5  until  the 
later  days  of  Hadrian,  A.D.  135-8. 

But  after  the  close  of  the  great  Jewish  war,  A.D.  135,  as  we 
have  said,  things  grew  even  graver  for  the  Christians.  They 
now  stood]  out  conspicuous  as  an  irreconcilable  sect,  quite 
differ  ent^from  the  Jews,  who  after  the  great  war  had  quietly 
submitted  to  Roman  law  and  order 



IN  the  last  years  of  Hadrian  and  during  the  reigns  of  Pius  and 
Marcus  must  be  dated  not  a  few  of  the  accounts  of  early 
martyrs.  The  "  Acts  "  which  contain  these  recitals,  it  is 
true,  are  for  the  most  part  of  doubtful  authority.1  They  contain 
details  which  are  clearly  not  historical,  and  critical  investiga 
tion  generally  pronounces  them  untrustworthy.  But  the 
studies  of  later  years,  especially  in  the  lore  of  the  catacombs, 
show  us  that  even  for  the  more  improbable  and  precarious 
records,  evidently  edited  and  enlarged  at  a  date  considerably 
later  than  the  events  which  they  purport  to  chronicle,  there 
is  evidently  a  basis  of  truth  ;  and  it  is  clear  that  the  men 
and  women  whose  sufferings  and  brave  deaths  for  the  faith 
are  told  in  the  "  Acts,"  for  the  most  part  were  historical 

But  we  possess  a  much  more  dependable  foundation  for 
our  statement  that  the  last  years  of  Hadrian  and  the  prolonged 
reigns  of  Hadrian's  two  successors,  Antoninus  Pius  and  Marcus 
Antoninus,  were  periods  of  bitter  persecution  for  the  Christian 
sect  in  Rome  and  in  the  provinces  ;  that  the  years  which  elapsed 
between  A.D.  135  and  A.D.  180  were  years  of  a  persecution 
graver  and  more  sustained  than  anything  endured  previously 
by  the  followers  of  Jesus. 

There  has  come  down  to  us  a  group  of  contemporary 
Christian  writings,2  the  authenticity  of  which  no  critic  friendly 

1  A  certain  number  of  them,  however,  are  by  all  responsible  critics  received 
as  absolutely  genuine,    such  as  :    The  Letters  relating   the  Martyrdom   of 
Polycarp  ;  the  recital  of  the  sufferings  and  death  of  the  martyrs  of  Lyons  ; 
the  Acts  of  the  Scillitan  Martyrs ;  and  a  few  years  later  the  passion  of  S.  Per- 
petua  and  of  her  companions  in  suffering. 

2  Extracts  from  them  are  given  on  pp.  177-191. 

6  8l 

82  THE  CHRISTIAN  CHURCH,  A.D.  117-138 

or  hostile  ventures  to  impugn.  It  is  from  these  writings  that 
we  obtain  our  knowledge  of  what  was  the  condition  of  the 
Christians  in  the  Empire. 

There  is  no  question  but  that  doubtful  "  Acts  of  Martyr 
dom/'  many  of  which  purport  to  belong  to  this  period,  i.e.,  from 
the  last  years  of  Hadrian  to  the  death  of  Marcus  Antoninus, 
have  given  colour  to  the  theory  which  has  found  favour  with 
certain  writers,  some  even  of  the  first  rank,  that,  after  all,  the 
number  of  martyrs  was  but  small.  Recent  study  has,  how 
ever,  completely  set  aside  this  theory.  In  the  first  place,  the 
scientific  investigation  of  the  Roman  catacombs  has  shown 
that  in  many  cases  the  heroes  and  heroines  of  the  doubtful 
"  Acts  "  were  real  historical  persons  ;  and,  secondly,  a  careful 
study  of  the  fragments  of  contemporary  writers  above  referred 
to,  has  given  us  an  exact  and  accurate  picture  of  the  period  in 
question,1  and  the  largest  estimate  of  the  number  of  sufferers 
during  this  period  which  has  been  made  is  probably  too  small. 

Most  melancholy  was  the  close  of  the  brilliant  life  of  the 
great  Emperor.  Shortly  after  the  close  of  the  Jewish  war, 
Hadrian  returned  to  Italy  and  settled  in  the  magnificent 
and  fantastic  palace  he  amused  himself  by  building  in  the 
neighbourhood  of  Rome  at  Tibur.  The  vast  group  of  buildings 
and  parks  and  gardens  of  the  so-called  Villa  of  Hadrian  was 
a  copy  of  the  more  famous  temples,  baths,  and  villas  he  had 
visited  during  his  long  travels.  Egypt,  Greece,  Italy,  sup 
plied  him  with  models.  But  the  seeds  of  a  fatal  malady  were 
already  sapping  his  strength.  He  was  a  sufferer  from  dropsy 
in  its  worst  form  ;  his  life,  too,  had  long  been  enfeebled  by  bis 
wild  excesses,  to  which  ever  and  again  he  had  given  way.  Then 
the  strange  mental  sickness,  the  fatal  heritage  of  so  many 
absolute  sovereigns,  came  over  him.  Nothing  pleased  him  ; 
no  ray  of  hope  lightened  his  ailing,  suffering  life  ;  the  present 
and  the  future  were  both  dark. 

1  No  scholar  is  more  definite  here  than  Renan,  who  certainly  cannot  be 
regarded  as  one  who  would  be  likely  to  dwell  with  emphasis  on  testimony 
which  makes  for  the  ardent  faith  of  the  Christians  of  the  first  days.  And 
yet  this  great  scholar  brushes  aside  all  the  theories  which  maintain  that  the 
Christian  martyrs  of  this  period  were  few  and  insignificant  in  number;  no 
modern  writer  is  more  positive  on  the  awful  character  of  the  persecutions 
between  A.D.  135  and  A.D.  180. 


His  government  became  cruel,  arbitrary,  tyrannical.  Many 
executions,  not  a  few  of  them  striking  the  highest  in  rank  and 
authority,  disfigured  the  closing  years  of  the  Emperor.  The 
Christian  sect,  which  lately,  as  we  have  explained  already, 
had  become  in  a  specific  manner  feared  and  dreaded  by  the 
State,  largely  suffered  during  these  sad  closing  years  of  his 
reign,  and  the  dread  persecution  to  which  it  was  subjected 
during  the  reigns  of  his  successors  began  in  good  earnest. 

One  dominant  thought  seems  to  have  haunted  Hadrian— 
the  longing  for  death.  Those  who  were  nearest  to  his  person, 
under  the  influence  of  the  wise  prince  his  adopted  successor, 
generally  known  as  Antoninus  Pius,  restrained  him  on  several 
occasions  from  laying  violent  hands  on  himself  ;  but  it  was 
no  avail,  and  Hadrian  died  at  Baiae,  A.D.  138,  the  death  no 
doubt  hastened,  if  not  absolutely  caused,  by  his  own  act. 

The  following  little  table  will  explain  the  succession  of  the 
Antonines  to  the  Empire  : 

Hadrian  first  adopted  -^Elius  Verus  —  a  patrician,  but  a  voluptuous 
and  carelessly  living  man  ;  he  died,  however,  in  the  lifetime 
of  Hadrian,  leaving  a  son  Verus,  afterwards  associated  in  the 
Empire  with  Marcus,  whom,  however,  he  predeceased  by 
many  years. 

Hadrian  subsequently  adopted  as  his  successor  Aurelius  Antoninus, 
known  in  history  as  Antoninus  Pius. 

Antoninus  Pius  belonging  to  a  Gallic  family  of  Nimes,  had  filled 
the  highest  offices  in  the  State,  and  later  became  a  trusted 
counsellor  of  the  Emperor  Hadrian,  and  his  devoted  friend. 
He  was  a  patrician  of  the  highest  character.  When  Hadrian 
adopted  him  he  required  him  to  secure  the  imperial  succession 
by  adopting  Verus  the  son  of  ^Elius  Verus,  whom  he  had 
originally  adopted  but  who  had  died,  and  also  Marcus 
Aurelius  Antoninus,  his  young  kinsman,  a  nephew  of  his 
(Hadrian's)  wife. 

Antoninus  Pius  became  Emperor  in  A.D.  138.  Marcus  Aurelius 
Antoninus  succeeded  him  in  A.D.  161. 


ANTONINUS  PIUS,  A.D.  isS-A.D.  161 
MARCUS  ANTONINUS,  A.D.  i6i-A.D.  180 

A  FTER  the  death  of  Hadrian,  in  A.D.  138,  for  forty-two 
JT\  years  the  Empire  of  Rome  was  ruled  by  two  sovereigns 
who,  pagan  though  they  were,  live  in  the  pages  of 
historians  of  all  lands  as  the  most  perfect  of  any  known 
sovereign  rulers.  They  are  known  as  the  two  Antonines  : 
the  first  is  distinguished  by  the  title  given  him  by  his  con 
temporaries,  "  Pius  "  ;  the  second,  by  the  best  known  of  his 
several  names,  "  Marcus  Aurelius." 

They  were  not  conquerors,  not  even  great  legislators ; 
although  under  their  beneficent,  and  with  one  sad  exception 
generally  wise  rule,  the  laws  of  the  State,  in  the  case  especially 
of  the  downtrodden  and  helpless,  were  materially  improved 
and  supplemented. 

Our  contemporary  pagan  literature  here,alas !  is  but  scanty; 
what  has  come  down  to  us  is  even  more  unsatisfactory  than 
what  we  possess  in  the  contemporary  records  of  Hadrian. 

No  great  writer  in  prose  or  poetry  arose  in  these  forty-two 
years  ;  and  when  in  the  fifth  and  following  centuries,  the  era  of 
confusion  and  universal  decay,  manuscripts  began  to  be  only 
sparingly  copied,  the  records  of  this  period  were  neglected, 
and  what  attention  to  literature  was  given,  the  copyists  of 
the  MSS.  devoted  to  the  masterpieces  of  the  Augustan  and 
even  of  an  earlier  age,  such  as  the  famous  prose  works  of 
Cicero  and  Tacitus,  of  Pliny  and  of  Suetonius  ;  of  poets  such 
as  Lucretius,  Vergil  and  Ovid,  Propertius,  Juvenal  and  Horace. 

We  possess  only  abbreviations  of  the  Chronicles  of  the 
Antonines,  somewhat  dry  and  uninteresting,  wanting  in 
details  and  in  picturesque  illustration.  It  is  true  that  no 

great  war — no  striking  conquest — no   terrible  intestine  dis- 



turbances — disfigured  these  happier  reigns,  or  supplied  material 
which  would  arrest  the  attention  of  the  writer  and  reader. 
It  is  mainly  from  side  sources  that  we  learn  enough  of  the 
character  and  government  of  the  Antonines  to  justify  the 
unfeigned  admiration  which  in  all  times  has  been  given  to 
these  two  good  and  great  princes. 

The  title  "  Pius,"  which  was  bestowed  on  the  elder 
Antoninus  by  the  Senate  at  the  beginning  of  his  reign,  and 
by  which  he  is  universally  known,  was  well  deserved.  His 
unfeigned  devotion  to  the  ancient  Roman  religion,  his  reputa 
tion  for  justice  and  wisdom,  for  clemency  and  sobriety,  his 
stern  morality,  the  high  example  he  ever  set  in  his  private 
and  public  life — were  admirably  expressed  in  this  title.  His 
great  predecessors — Emperors  such  as  Vespasian  and  Titus, 
Trajan  and  Hadrian,  possessed  each  of  them  some  of  these 
distinguishing  characteristics,  but  only  some ;  the  lives 
of  these  famous  Emperors  being  all  more  or  less  disfigured 
by  regrettable  flaws. 

But  the  title  "  Pius  "  in  the  first  instance  seems  to  have 
been  given  to  the  first  Antonine  owing  to  the  universal  admira 
tion  of  his  generous  and  devoted  behaviour  to  his  adopted 
father  and  predecessor  Hadrian,  whom  he  tenderly  watched 
over  during  his  last  sad  years  of  ever  increasing  sickness  and 
terrible  life-weariness,  and  whose  memory  he  protected  with 
a  rare  and  singular  chivalry,  if  we  may  venture  to  use  a  beauti 
ful  and  significant  word  which  belongs  to  a  later  period  in  the 
world's  history. 

The  sources,  whence  we  derive  our  too  scanty  knowledge 
of  this  almost  flawless  life,  besides  the  notices  and  details 
preserved  in  the  abbreviations  of  the  contemporary  chronicles 
we  have  spoken  of,  comprise  the,  comparatively  recently 
recovered  letters  of  Fronto,  a  famous  philosopher  and  man 
of  letters  to  whom  Antoninus  Pius  entrusted  the  principal 
share  in  the  training  of  his  adopted  son  and  successor  known 
in  history  as  the  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius,  and  more  especi 
ally  the  noble  and  touching  estimate  of  his  works  and  days 
contained  in  the  singular  and  exquisite  little  book  written 
by  his  adopted  son  Marcus,  generally  known  as  his  "  Medita 


We  find  the  following  striking  words  relating  to  Pius 
written  by  Marcus  in  this  little  book  after  the  great  Emperor, 
who  had  trained  him  so  well  for  his  high  destiny,  had  passed 
away.  It  was  in  the  form  of  a  soliloquy  with  himself — with 
his  own  soul : 

"  Life  is  short ;  the  only  fruit  of  the  earth-life  is  to  do 
good  to  the  men  among  whom  our  lot  is  cast.  Ever  act  as 
a  true  pupil  of  Antoninus  (Pius).  Call  to  mind  his  invariable 
fixity  of  purpose  in  carrying  out  what  was  reasonable  ;  remem 
ber  how  calm  was  his  conduct  under  all  circumstances  ;  think 
of  his  piety  ;  remember  that  serene  expression  of  his  ;  his 
invariable  sweetness — his  contempt  for  vainglory ;  his  con 
stant  care  in  sifting  the  truth  ;  his  indifference  to  unjust 
reproaches  .  .  .  never  suspicious ;  utterly  careless  of  his 
own  personal  comfort ;  paying  little  heed  to  his  food  or  his 
clothes  ;  indefatigable  in  work  ;  ever  patient  and  self-deny 
ing.  .  .  .  Think  (O  my  soul)  of  all  this,  so  that  when  your 
own  hour  for  departure  strikes,  it  may  find  you,  as  it  found 
him,  conscious  that  the  life-work  had  been  well  done/' 

Antoninus  Pius  had  inherited  a  great  fortune  ;  and  at  the 
time  of  his  adoption  by  Hadrian  he  was  well  on  in  middle 
life,  and  had  filled  with  dignity  and  honour  many  of  the  high 
offices  of  State.  When  he  succeeded  to  supreme  power  as  the 
absolute  and  irresponsible  sovereign  of  the  greatest  Empire 
ever  under  the  sceptre  of  one  man  ;  after  carefully  discharging 
the  many  duties  of  his  great  position  in  his  magnificent  palace 
overlooking  the  Roman  Forum,  its  splendid  temples  and  its 
yet  more  splendid  memories,  he  loved  to  retire  for  a  brief 
season  to  his  ancestral  home  and  farm  of  Lorium  in 

Antoninus  Pius  delighted  in  exchanging  the  imperial  state 
and  wearisome  pomp  of  his  Roman  court,  the  artificial  pleasures 
of  the  theatre  and  the  circus,  which  gave  him  no  real  satis 
faction,  for  the  true  and  healthy  joys  of  the  woods  and  the 
fields.  He  enjoyed  the  harvest  and  the  vintage  festivals 
of  the  people.  He  loved  the  excitement  of  the  chase  ;  he 
was  at  once  a  devoted  fisherman  and  a  hunter,  though  for 
these  things  he  never  neglected  the  graver  duties  and  the 
awful  responsibilities  of  his  great  position.  The  Pronto 


letters  give  us  a  beautiful  picture  of  his  family  life  at  his 
Lorium  farm. 

But  the  great  and  good  Emperor  had  a  deeper  and  more 
far-reaching  object  at  heart  than  simple  self -gratification 
when  he  cast  off  the  trammels  of  State  and  forsook  the  gay 
and  brilliant  court  of  the  great  capital  for  the  plain  unostenta 
tious  life  of  a  country  gentleman  of  the  old  Roman  school. 

The  first  Antonine  was  conscious  that  the  soft,  luxurious 
city  life  of  which  Rome  was  the  great  example,  and  which 
was  too  faithfully  copied  in  the  wealthy  provincial  centres, 
was  enfeebling  the  Empire, — the  builders  and  makers  of  Rome 
he  well  knew  were  the  hardy  race  of  men  who  feared  the 
old  gods  and  who  were  ready  to  fight  and  die  for  their  country, 
and  these  men  were  the  peasant-farmers  produced  by  the 
old  rural  life  of  Italy.  He  would  set  the  fashion  himself,  and 
if  possible  popularize  this  better  and  nobler  way  of  living. 
He  would  bring  back  the  memories  of  those  great  ones  who 
had  been  the  makers  of  that  mighty  empire. 

It  was  no  mere  love  of  antiquity,  no  special  taste  for 
antiquarian  lore,  which  induced  Antoninus  Pius  to  grave 
upon  his  coins  the  immemorial  symbols  telling  of  the  ancient 
traditions  belonging  to  the  great  past  of  Rome, — symbols 
many  of  which  have  been  immortalized  in  the  "  haunting 
and  liquid  "  rhythms  of  the  poet  loved  in  Rome, — ^Eneas 
carrying  his  father  ;  the  white  sow  sacrificed  to  Juno  by  the 
fugitive  ^Eneas  on  the  banks  of  Tiber  ;  Mars  and  Rhea  Sylvia  ; 
the  sacred  wild  fig-tree  beneath  whose  branches  the  wolf 
found  the  children  Romulus  and  Remus  ;  the  wolf  suckling 
the  baby  founders  of  the  Queen  City  ;  the  augur  Naevius  and 
his  razor  before  King  Tarquinius  Priscus ;  Horatius  who 
defended  the  bridge  against  the  hosts  of  Porsenna.  It  was 
not  the  instinct  of  a  curious  and  scholarly  archaeologist,  but 
a  deep  and  far-reaching  purpose,  which  prompted  Antoninus 
Pius  to  search  out  and  rebuild  the  little  unknown  Arcadian 
village  of  Pallanteum,  the  ancient  home  of  Evander,  the  host 
of  ^Eneas, — Evander,  the  founder  of  the  earliest  Rome,  whose 
beautiful  story  is  told  in  the  noble  epic  of  Vergil.1  The  Em 
peror  would  popularize,  would  bring  before  his  people  the 

1  JEneid,  Book  viii. 


glorious  memories  of  the  storied  past — the  wonderful  story 
of  Rome — its  cherished  traditions  which  told  of  the  old  love 
of  the  Immortals  for  Rome. 

Antoninus  Pius  was  by  no  means  the  first  who  felt  that  the 
greatness  of  Rome  had  been  built  up  by  that  hardy  race  of  men 
who  had  lived  the  simple  homely  life  of  rural  toil,  by  men  who 
feared  the  gods  and  believed  in  the  rewards  and  punishments 
of  the  Immortals.  The  great  statesman  Emperor  Augustus 
more  than  a  century  earlier  had  recognised  this,  and  his 
poet  Vergil  had  pressed  home  this  truth  in  his  deathless 

In  the  Eclogues,  and  still  more  in  the  Georgics,  men  were 
led  to  reverence  the  old  simple  manners  and  customs ;  and 
in  the  charmed  verses  of  the  yEneid  the  same  teaching  was 
enforced  with  yet  greater  eloquence  and  earnestness.  '  Work 
and  pray "  was  the  conclusion  of  the  Georgics  (in  primis 
venerare  deos),  was  the  burthen  of  the  poet's  solemn 

And  it  was  not  only  Augustus  and  his  loved  poet  Vergil 
who  had  felt  the  power  of  the  ancient  Roman  religion,  so  sadly 
ignored  if  not  despised  in  their  day  and  time,  and  who  had  seen 
that  a  return  to  the  old  Roman  way  of  living  and  to  the  primi 
tive  simple  beliefs  and  the  old  austere  life  alone  would  help  to 
purify  the  corrupt  and  dissolute  manners  which  were  weakening, 
perhaps  destroying,  the  old  Roman  spirit.  Tacitus,  the  greatest 
historian  Rome  had  ever  given  birth  to,  had  also  expressed  the 
same  beautiful  thought.  Juvenal  the  poet -satirist,  too,  who 
had  lashed  with  an  unsparing  pen  the  luxury,  the  vices,  and  the 
follies  of  his  age,  painted  as  his  ideal  Roman  a  Curius,  thrice 
consul,  who,  despising  all  state  and  pomp  and  luxury,  hungry 
and  tired  after  a  day  in  the  fields,  preferred  "  a  meal  of  herbs 
and  bacon  served  on  homely  earthenware." 

Juvenal  had  a  true  Roman  reverence  for  the  old  heroes  of 
the  Republic,  for  the  Curii,  the  Fabii,  and  the  Scipios,  and  their 
unostentatious  way  of  living.  Even  Martial  felt  a  strange 
charm  in  the  antique  simplicity  of  the  old  republican  statesmen 
and  soldiers. 

The  younger  Pliny,  courtier,  statesman,  and  polished 
writer,  weary  and  sated  with  the  brilliant  luxurious  life  of  a 


great  noble  in  the  earlier  years  of  the  second  century,  in  his 
wonderful  picture  of  social  life  in  the  times  of  Trajan,  shows 
us  how  intensely  sensible  he  and  his  circle  were  of  the  purer 
pleasures  and  rest  to  be  found  in  "  the  stillness  of  the  pine 
woods,  and  the  cold  breeze  from  the  Apennines  which  blew  over 
his  quiet  rural  home  in  Tuscany." 

But  while  Augustus  and  his  famous  poets  had  striven  to 
lead  the  citizens  of  the  great  empire  to  love  and  lead  the  more 
austere  and  purer  life  of  the  primitive  Roman  people,  it  was  an 
open  secret  that  the  imperial  teacher  himself  failed  to  lead  the 
life  he  professed  to  love,  for  Augustus  stained  his  own  works 
and  days  with  grave  moral  irregularities.  The  two  Antonines, 
on  the  other  hand,  different  from  Augustus,  set  themselves  as 
the  noblest  examples  of  a  pure  austere  life ;  no  moral  stain  or 
flaw  was  ever  suffered  to  disfigure  the  life-work  of  these  two 
patriotic  pagan  sovereigns. 

There  was  one  master-thought  deep  buried  in  the  heart 
of  Antoninus  Pius  and  of  his  adopted  son  and  successor 
Marcus  Antoninus.  Their  whole  career  was  influenced  by  an 
intense  love  of  Rome.  They  would  preserve  the  mighty  Empire 
from  the  decay  which  they  perceived  was  fast  gaining  ground  ; 
they  would  set,  by  their  own  example,  the  vogue  of  the  purer, 
simpler  religious  life  on  which  the  foundation  stories  of  the 
Empire  had  been  so  securely  laid  ;  hence  the  bitter  persecution 
of  the  Christian  sect  which  was  so  striking  and  painful  a  feature 
in  the  Antonine  administration  of  the  Empire, — a  persecution 
evidently  active  and  bitter  in  the  reign  of  Pius,  but  which 
greatly  increased  in  intensity  and  virulence  under  the  rule  of 
his  successor  Marcus. 

The  Antonines  were  intensely  persuaded  that  all  that  was 
great  and  glorious  in  the  Roman  Empire  came  from  the  simple 
and  even  austere  life  led  by  their  fathers  under  the  protection 
of  the  mighty  Immortals — of  Jupiter  of  the  Capitol,  of  Mars 
the  Avenger,  of  Vesta  with  her  sacred  fire,  of  the  great  Twin 
Brethren — of  the  gods  whose  temples  with  their  golden  roofs 
were  the  stately  ornaments  of  the  Forum  on  which  the  Emperors 
ooked  down  from  their  proud  home  on  the  Palatine  Hill. 


These  were  the  deities  which  the  great  pagan  Emperor  believed 
"  had  cradled  the  Roman  State  and  still  watched  over  her 
career."  It  was  this  belief  which  induced  Pius  to  grave 
on  his  coins  the  sacred  memories  of  the  earliest  days  of  this 
divine  protection  on  which  we  have  been  dwelling. 



AMONG  the  subjects  of  the  Empire  only  one  group  stood 
persistently  aloof  from  the  crowds  of  worshippers  who 
again  thronged  these  time-honoured  shrines  ;  this  group 
refused  to  share  in  the  ancient  Roman  cult  which  the  Antonines 
had  once  more  made  the  vogue  in  Rome  and  in  her  provinces, 
a  cult  to  which  these  great  pagan  Emperors  ever  referred  the 
glories  of  the  past,  and  on  which  they  grounded  their  hopes  of 
a  yet  more  splendid  future  for  Rome. 

The  solitary  group  was  indeed  a  strange  one.  To  a  Roman 
like  Antoninus  Pius  it  appeared  to  be  composed  of  a  sect, 
comparatively  speaking,  of  yesterday  ;  for  when  his  predecessor 
Augustus  reigned  and  Vergil  wrote,  it  had  no  existence.  It 
was  a  sect  professing,  as  it  seemed  to  the  Emperor,  a  new 
religion — a  religion  which  claimed  for  the  One  it  worshipped  a 
solitary  supremacy — a  religion  which  regarded  the  awful  gods 
of  Rome  as  shadows,  as  mere  phantoms  of  the  imagination. 
Well  might  sovereigns  like  the  Antonines  shudder  at  a  teaching 
which  would  appear  to  a  true  patriot  Roman,  whose  heart  was 
all  aflame  with  national  pride,  to  involve  the  most  daring 
impiety,  the  most  shocking  blasphemy  ;  which  would  threaten 
a  tremendous  risk  for  the  future  of  her  people,  if  this  fatal 
teaching  should  spread. 

And  this  strange  sect  of  yesterday,  the  Emperors  would  hear 
from  their  officials,  was  multiplying  to  an  enormous  extent, 
not  only  in  Rome  but  in  all  the  provinces. 

They  would  receive  reports  from  all  lands  how  the  new 
community  called  Christian  was  daily  adding  fresh  converts  to 
its  extraordinary  and  dangerous  belief, — converts  drawn  from 
the  ranks  of  the  humblest  traders,  from  slaves  and  freedmen 
—converts  drawn,  too,  from  the  noblest  families  of  the  Empire. 


They  would  hear,  too,  from  their  responsible  officials  that 
the  new  sect,  from  its  great  and  ever-increasing  numbers,  its 
striking  unity  of  belief,  its  perfect  organization,  had  already 
become  a  power  in  the  State, — a  real  power  with  which  the 
imperial  government  sooner  or  later  would  have  assuredly 
to  reckon,  for  it  was  a  power  which  every  day  grew  more 

And  for  the  first  time,  too,  the  pagan  Emperors  learnt  from 
their  officials  that  this  new  sect  was  not  made  up  of  Jews, 
as  had  been  hitherto  generally  assumed,  but  that  its  members 
were  something  quite  different — far,  far  more  formidable  and 
dangerous.  It  was  true  that  there  was  no  suggestion  of  any 
open  revolt  on  the  part  of  this  strange  group  of  subjects, 
such  as  Vespasian  and  Hadrian  had  to  meet  and  to  crush 
at  Jerusalem  and  in  Palestine  in  the  case  of  the  Jews ;  the 
danger  to  be  feared  from  the  Christians  was  that  they  were 
gradually  winning  the  people's  hearts  ;  that  they  were  turning 
the  people's  thoughts  from  the  old  gods  of  Rome  to  another 
and  far  greater  Being,  whom  they  averred  was  the  loving 
Lord  of  all  men,  the  supreme  arbiter  of  life  and  death. 

And  to  Emperors  like  the  Antonines,  whose  devout  minds 
ever  loved  to  dwell  on  the  constant  protection  of  the  Immortals, 
who  they  were  persuaded  had  loved  Rome  from  time  imme 
morial,  in  whom  they  strove  with  sad  earnestness  to  believe, 
to  whom  they  prayed  and  taught  their  people  to  pray, — to 
Emperors  like  Pius  and  Marcus  these  Christians,  with  their 
intense  faith,  a  faith  for  which  they  were  only  too  ready  to 
die,  were  indeed  abhorrent ;  in  their  eyes  they  constituted 
an  ever-present,  an  ever-increasing  danger  to  Rome,  her 
glorious  traditions,  her  ancient  religion,  her  very  existence. 

This  was  the  secret  of  the  new  policy  pursued  by  the  State 
in  its  treatment  of  the  Christians.  It  began  to  be  adopted 
in  the  last  years  of  Hadrian  after  the  close  of  the  great  Jewish 
war  in  A.D.  134-5,  when  the  Christian  sect  was  discovered  to 
be  utterly  separate  from  the  Jews — distinct  and  even  hostile 
to  the  Jewish  race,  with  other  and  far  more  dangerous  views 
and  hopes  ;  and  when  Antoninus  Pius  set  himself  to  reform 
his  people  by  reminding  them  of  the  manners  and  customs  of 
their  ancestors,  by  impressing  upon  them  the  duty  of  a 


more  earnest  worship  of  the  old  gods  of  Rome,  he  found  in 
the  Christians  his  most  dangerous  opponents ;  hence  the 
stern  treatment  which  the  new  sect  received  at  his  hands  ; 
hence  the  policy  of  persecution  which  gathered  strength  during 
his  reign,  and  was  intensified  in  the  days  of  his  adopted  son 
and  successor  Marcus. 

On  the  whole,  the  usual  verdict  of  tradition  respecting 
the  condition  of  Christians  under  the  Antonines  must  be 
reversed.  The  reign  of  Antoninus  Pius  is  commonly  repre 
sented  as  a  period  of  peace  for  the  Church,  and  little  is  said 
about  the  treatment  of  Christians  under  the  government  of 
Antoninus  Pius  and  of  Marcus  Antoninus.  This  favourable 
view  and  usual  reticence  concerning  any  Christian  sufferings 
during  these  reigns  is  largely  owing  to  the  high  estimation 
in  which  the  two  Antonines  as  rulers  are  universally  held ; — 
that  these  great  and  good  Emperors  could  persecute  and 
harass  the  followers  of  Jesus  has  been  usually  deemed  un 
likely  if  not  impossible. 

To  regard  such  men  as  persecutors  would  be  to  inflict  a 
stigma  on  the  character  of  the  two  most  perfect  sovereigns 
whose  lives  are  recorded  in  history.  The  first  Antoninus 
received  his  beautiful  title  "  Pius  "  at  the  urgent  wish  of  the 
Senate,  a  wish  that  was  universally  endorsed  by  the  public 
opinion  of  the  Empire  ;  by  this  title  he  has  been  known  and 
revered  by  all  succeeding  generations. 

Marcus,  his  adopted  son  and  successor,  who,  if  possible, 
held  a  yet  more  exalted  place  in  the  estimation  of  men  of  his 
own  generation,  and  who  has  handed  down  to  posterity  a 
yet  higher  reputation  for  virtue  and  wisdom,  tells  us  in  his 
own  glowing  and  striking  words  that  he  owed  everything  to 
the  noble  example  and  teaching  of  his  adopted  father  Anton 
inus  Pius.  To  this  Marcus,  when  he  died,  divine  honours 
were  voluntarily  paid  with  such  universal  consent  that  it  was 
held  sacrilege  not  to  set  up  his  image  in  a  house. 

To  brand  such  men  as  persecutors,  for  centuries  would 
have  been  for  any  historian,  Christian  or  pagan,  too  daring 
a  statement,  and  such  an  estimate  would  have  been  received 
with  distrust,  if  not  with  positive  derision  ;  nor  is  it  by  any 
means  certain  that  even  now  such  a  conclusion  will  not  be 


read  by  many  with  cold  mistrust  and  even  with  repulsion. 
But  recent  scholarship  has  clearly  demonstrated  that  the 
Antonines  were  bitter  foes  to  Christianity,  and  that  during 
their  reigns  the  followers  of  Jesus  were  sorely  harassed. 
Under  the  Emperor  Marcus  the  persecutions  extended  through 
out  his  reign  ;  they  were,  as  Lightfoot  does  not  hesitate  to 
characterize  them,  "  fierce  and  deliberate."  They  were 
aggravated,  at  least  in  some  cases,  by  cruel  torture.  They 
had  the  Emperor's  direct  personal  sanction.  The  scenes  of 
these  persecutions  were  laid  in  all  parts  of  the  Empire — in 
Rome,  in  Asia  Minor,  in  Gaul,  in  Africa. 

The  martyrdom  of  Justin  and  his  companions  as  told  in 
the  Acts  of  the  Martyrdom  of  the  great  Christian  teacher,  an 
absolutely  authentic  piece,  was  carried  out  in  Rome  under 
the  orders  of  Rusticus  the  city  prefect,  the  trusted  friend  and 
minister  of  Marcus,  under  the  Emperor's  very  eyes ;  while 
the  persecutions  at  Vienne  and  Lyons  were  the  most  bloody 
persecutions  on  record  up  to  this  date,  except,  perhaps,  the 
Neronian  ;  and  for  these  Marcus  Antoninus  is  directly  and 
personally  responsible. 

The  Madaurian  and  Scillitan  (proconsular  Africa)  martyr 
doms  apparently  took  place  a  few  months  after  the  death  of 
Marcus,  but  these  martyrdoms  were  certainly  a  continuation 
of  the  persecuting  policy  of  Marcus.  And  these  awful  sufferings 
to  which  the  Christian  communities  were  exposed  during  these 
two  reigns  are  not  only  learned  from  the  few  authentic  Acts 
of  Martyrdom  preserved  to  us,  but  from  various  and'numerous 
notices  of  contemporary  writers  which  we  come  upon — em 
bedded  in  their  histories,  apologies,  and  doctrinal  expositions. 
Some  of  these  are  quoted l  verbatim.  The  testimony  we 
possess  here  of  this  continuous  and  very  general  perse 
cution  during  these  reigns  when  carefully  massed  together 
is  simply  overwhelming.2 

1  See  pp.  189-90  and  200. 

2  Bishop  Lightfoot  has  been   referred  to  in  this  brief   summary   of  the 
position   of   Christians  during   these   two   great   reigns.      This   careful   and 
exact  scholar  is  most  definite  in  his  conclusions  here,  and  his  views  exactly 
correspond  with  the  views  taken  in  this  chapter. 


Nor  is  the  behaviour  of  the  two  Antonine  Emperors, 
who  ruled  over  the  Roman  Empire  for  a  period  of  some 
forty-two  years,  towards  their  Christian  subjects  in  any  way 
at  variance  with  their  known  principles.  Such  men,  with  their 
lofty  ideals,  with  their  firm  unyielding  persuasion  that  Rome 
owed  her  grandeur  and  power,  her  past  prosperity  and  her 
present  position  as  a  World-Empire,  to  the  protection  of  the 
Immortals  whom  their  fathers  worshipped,  could  not  well 
have  acted  differently. 

We  have  seen  what  was  the  unvarying  policy  of  Pius  in  his 
earnest  efforts  to  restore  the  purer,  simpler  life  led  by  the  old 
Romans  who  had  built  up  the  mighty  Empire  ;  how  faithfully 
he  had  followed  in  the  lines  traced  out  by  Vergil,  who,  as  we 
have  already  quoted,  wound  up  his  exquisite  picture  of  the 
ancient  Roman  life  with  the  solemn  injunction  "  in  primis 
venerare  dtos." 

The  pupil  and  successor  of  Pius,  the  noble  Marcus,  was  if 
possible  more  "  Roman  "  than  Pius  ;  and  his  devotion  to  the 
gods  of  Rome  was  even  more  marked.  As  a  boy  he  was  famous 
for  his  accurate  knowledge  of  ancient  Roman  ritual.  When 
only  eight  years  old  he  was  enrolled  in  the  College  of  the  Salii, 
reciting  from  memory  archaic  liturgical  forms  but  dimly 
understood  in  his^ays.1 

Before  his  departure  for  the  dangerous  war  with  the  Mar- 
comanni,  he  directed  that  Rome  should  be  ceremonially 
purified  according  to  the  ancient  rites  ;  and  for  seven  days 
the  images  of  the  gods  were  feasted  as  they  lay  on  their  couches 
in  the  public  streets. 

But  it  is  in  his  private  life  that  the  intense  piety  of  the 
second  Antonine  emperor  comes  out  with  ever  startling  clear 
ness.  It  was  no  mere  State  reasons  which  prompted  Marcus  to 
uphold  the  ancient  cult  of  Rome.  He  evidently  believed  with 
a  fervent  belief  in  these  old  gods  of  Rome.  For  instance,  if 
his  dear  friend  and  tutor  Fronto  was  ailing,  he  would  pray  at 
the  altars  of  the  gods  that  one  very  dear  to  him  might  be  eased 
of  his  pain. 

In  that  exquisite  volume  in  which  in  the  form  of  private 

1  This  especially  refers  to  the  ancient  song  of  the  Arval  Brotherhood,  of 
which  college  Marcus  was  also  a  member. 


and  secret  memoranda  he  recorded  his  inmost  thoughts  and 
hopes, — that  little  volume  which  amid  the  wreckage  of  con 
temporary  literary  remains  has  come  down  to  us  intact, — 
again  and  again  we  meet  with  words  telling  of  his  trust  in 
the  loving  care  of  the  Immortals  revered  in  the  Rome  of  old 
days,  but  in  whose  existence  in  the  later  times  of  the  Republic 
few  seem  to  have  believed. 

Out  of  a  host  of  such  memoranda  scattered  in  the  pages 
of  the  Meditations  we  will  quote  two  or  three  of  his  words 

'  With  respect  to  the  gods,  from  what  I  constantly  experi 
ence  of  their  power,  I  am  convinced  that  they  exist,  and  I 
venerate  them  "  (xii.  28). 

The  whole  of  the  first  book  of  the  Meditations  is,  in  fact,  a 
hymn  of  gratitude  to  the  gods  for  their  loving  care  of  him. 

"  Live  with  the  gods/'  he  writes  (v.  2-7)  ;  "  and  he  who  does 
live  with  the  gods  constantly  shows  to  them  that  his  own 
soul  is  satisfied  with  the  (lot)  which  is  assigned  to  him.  .  .  . 
Zeus  has  given  to  every  man  for  his  guardian  and  his  guide 
a  portion  of  himself." 

And  again  (v.  33),  "  Until  that  time  (thy  end)  comes,  what 
is  sufficient  ?  Why,  what  else  than  to  venerate  the  gods  and 
bless  them  ?  " 

"  If  the  gods  have  determined  about  me,  and  about  the 
things  which  must  happen  to  me,  they  have  determined  well, 
for  it  is  not  easy  even  to  imagine  a  deity  without  forethought  " 
(vii.  4.  4). 

That  the  Antonine  Emperors  knew  little  really  of  Christi 
anity  is  almost  certain.  The  name  of  Jesus  was  probably 
unknown  to  either  Pius  or  Marcus,  and  the  canonical  Gospels 
evidently  had  never  come  before  them,  although  these  writings 
were  generally  current  among  the  Christian  congregations 
at  that  time.  Once  only  in  his  Meditations  does  Marcus 
refer  to  the  sect,  and  then  it  was  clearly  with  a  feeling  of 
dislike  and  repulsion  ;  their  extraordinary  readiness  to  give 
up  their  lives  for  their  belief,  misliked  the  calm,  stoic 
Emperor.  "  The  soul,"  he  wrote,  "  should  be  ready  at  any 
moment  to  be  separated  from  the  body ;  but  this  readiness 
must  come  from  a  man's  own  calm  judgment,  not  from  mere 


obstinacy  and  with  a  tragic  show,  as  with  the  Christians  " 
(Meditations,  xi.  3). 

Marcus  before  all  things,  it  must  ever  be  remembered,  was 
a  Roman.  To  the  Emperor,  the  tradition  of  Rome  was  a  dogma. 
"  Every  moment,"  he  wrote,  "  think  ever  as  a  Roman  and  a 
man ;  do  whatever  thou  hast  in  hand  with  perfect  and  simple 
dignity"  (n.  5)- 

That  he  abhorred  the  Christian  sect  who  poured  scorn  upon 
the  traditions  he  loved,  and  contempt  upon  the  gods  whom  he 
adored,  was  perfectly  natural ;  and  it  must  be  remembered 
that  not  only  before  the  judge  when  they  were  arraigned  did 
the  Christians  express  utter  disbelief  in  the  gods  of  Rome,  but 
not  unfrequently  the  more  fanatical  Christians  went  out  of  their 
way  to  insult  these  deities  in  whom  Marcus  believed  with  a 
real  intensity. 

When  the  noble  Emperor  had  passed  away,  the  leniency 
with  which  his  evil  successor  Commodus  treated  the  Church 
was  owing  largely  to  his  dislike  and  jealousy  of  his  father  and 
his  policy.  In  the  following  century  (the  third)  the  gentle 
ness  of  the  treatment  of  Christians  in  the  reigns  of  Alexander 
Severus  and  Philip  the  Arabian  was  mainly  owing  to  the  fact 
that  these  Emperors  had  little  sympathy  with  the  Roman 
tradition ;  they  were  certainly  foreigners  :  the  first  of  them, 
Alexander  Severus,  was  a  Syrian  pure  and  simple.  The  name 
by  which  Philip  is  always  known  tells  us  of  his  foreign 
nationality.  The  famous  persecutors  of  the  third  century, 
Decius,  Aurelius  and  Diocletian,  were  believers  in  the  Roman 
tradition,  and  adopted  as  the  groundwork  of  their  policy  here, 
the  principles  of  Trajan  and  the  Antonines. 

No  crime  was  necessary  to  be  proved  in  these  reigns  when 
one  of  the  sect  was  arraigned.  The  mere  fact  of  the  accused 
being  a  Christian  ensured  at  once  condemnation.  Christianity 
was  utterly  incompatible  with  the  ancient  traditions  of  Rome. 




THE  scene  of  the  following  sketches  of  the  life  of  a  Chris 
tian  of  the  first  days  is,  generally  speaking,  laid  in 
Rome  ;  but  much  of  what  belonged  to  the  Christian 
of  the  Roman  congregation  was  common  to  the  believer  who 
dwelt  in  other  great  cities  of  the  Empire 

The  sketches  in  question  deal  with  the  following  subjects  : 

1.  The  numbers  of    believers    in    the  first   two   centuries 
which  followed  the  death  of  Peter  and  Paul. 

2.  The    assemblies  or   meetings  together  of  the  Christian 
folk  in  those  very  early  times  are  specially  dwelt  on.     These 
assemblies  were  an  extremely  important  and  influential  factor 
in  the  life  of  the  believer.     This  was  recognized  in  the  New 
Testament  writings  and  in  the  contemporary  writings  of  the 
earliest  teachers  of  the  faith. 

3.  The  various  classes  of  the  population    of  a  great  city 
which  composed  these  early  assemblies  are  enumerated. 

4.  What  was  taught  and  done  at  these  early  gatherings 
together  of  Christians  is  set  forth  with  some  detail. 

5.  Outside  these  gatherings,  the  life  of  a  believer  in  the 
world  is  referred    to  with  especial  regard  to  the  many  diffi 
culties  which  were  constantly  encountered  by  one  who  pro 
fessed  the  religion  of  Jesus. 

6.  The  methods  by  which    these    difficulties  were  to  be 
grappled  with    are  described.     Two  schools  of  teaching  evi 
dently  existed  here,  generally  characterized  as  the  "  Rigourist  " 
and  the  "  Gentle  "  schools.     These  are  briefly  dwelt  upon. 

7.  In  the    concluding  paragraphs  of   this  sketch   of  the 
early  Christian  life,  what  Christianity  offered  in  return  for  the 
hard  and  often  painful  life  which  its  professors  had  to  live, 
is  sketched. 


THERE  is  no  shadow  of  doubt  but  that  in  a  comparatively 
short  space  of  time  the  religion  of  Jesus  was  accepted 
by  great  numbers  of  the  dwellers  in  the  various  pro 
vinces  of  the  Roman  Empire.  This  fact  is  abundantly  testified 
to  by  contemporary  writers,  Christian  and  pagan. 

The  only  other  widely  professed  religion  with  which  we  can 
compare  it — Mahommedanism — owed  its  rapid  progress  and 
the  extraordinary  numbers  of  its  proselytes  mainly  to  the 
sword  of  the  conquerors.  Christianity,  on  the  other  hand, 
possessed  no  army  to  enforce  its  tenets.  It  was  not  even 
the  heritage  of  a  people  or  a  nation.  The  Jews,  to  whom  in 
the  first  days  of  its  existence  it  might  have  belonged,  were  very 
soon  to  be  reckoned  among  its  deadliest  foes. 

One  powerful  factor  which  influenced  the  reception  of  the 
new  religion  has  been  rarely  dwelt  upon,  but  it  deserves 
more  than  a  merely  passing  notice. 

The  news  of  the  religion  of  Jesus,  as  by  many  channels  it 
reached  the  slave,  often  a  highly  educated  slave,"  the  freed- 
man,  the  merchant,  the  small  trader,  the  soldier  of  the 
legions,  the  lawyer,  the  Roman  patrician,  the  women  of  the 
varied  classes  and  orders  in  the  great  Empire, — the  news 
came  of  something  that  had  quite  recently  happened ;  and 
not  only  recently,  but  in  a  well-known  city  of  the  Empire. 
It  was  a  wonderful  story,  firmly  and  strongly  attested  by 
many  eye-witnesses,  and  it  appealed  at  once  to  the  hearts 
of  all  sorts  and  conditions  of  men. 

It  differed  curiously  from  all  other  religions  of  which  the 
pagans  of  the  Empire  had  ever  heard.  These  other  religions 
were  very  ancient ;  their  cradle,  so  to  speak,  belonged  to 
far  back  days — pre-historical  days,  as  men  would  now  call 


them.  This  new  religion  really  belonged  to  their  own  time. 
Its  founder  had  talked  with  men  quite  recently.  He  had 
lived  in  a  city  they  knew  a  good  deal  about. 

There  was  no  dim  mist  about  its  origin  ;  no  old  legends 
had  gathered  round  it — legends  which  few,  if  any,  believed. 

The  story  of  the  religion  of  Jesus,  told  so  simply,  so  con 
vincingly,  in  the  four  Gospels,  had  a  strange  attraction ;  it 
went  home  to  the  hearts  of  a  vast  multitude ;  it  rang  true 
and  real. 

We  know  that  very  soon  after  the  date  of  the  events  of 
the  Gospel  story  the  numbers  of  the  men  and  women  who 
accepted  it  were  great.  From  the  pagan  Empire  we  have 
the  testimony  of  Tacitus,  the  most  eminent  of  Roman  historians. 
Writing  some  fifty  years  after  the  first  persecution  under 
Nero,  A.D.  64,  he  describes  the  Christians  at  the  time  of  that 
first  persecution  as  "a  vast  multitude  "  (ingens  multitude).1 

Still  more  in  detail  the  younger  Pliny,  the  Governor  of 
Bithynia,  writing  to  the  Emperor  Trajan  circa  A.D.  112-13 
for  instructions  how  to  deal  with  the  Christians,  relates  that 
the  new  religion  had  spread  so  widely  in  his  province,  not 
merely  in  the  cities  but  in  the  villages  and  country  districts 
generally,  that  the  temples  were  almost  deserted.2  It  is,  of 
course,  possible  that  the  new  faith  had  found  especial  favour 
in  Bithynia ;  but  such  a  formal  and  detailed  representation 
from  an  official  of  the  highest  rank  and  reputation  to  the 
Emperor  of  what  was  happening  in  his  own  province,  is  a 
sure  indication  of  the  enormous  strides  which  Christianity 
had  generally  made  in  the  Empire  when  the  echoes  of 
apostles  and  apostolic  men  were  still  ringing  in  the  ears  of 
their  disciples.  S.  John's  death  only  preceded  Pliny's 
letter  to  Trajan  3  by  at  most  twenty  years. 

Among  contemporary  Christian  writers  we  find  similar 
testimony  to  the  vast  numbers  of  Christians  in  very  early 
times.  To  take  a  few  conspicuous  examples  : 

1  Tacitus,  Annals,  xv.  44. 

2  Further  details  of  Pliny's  report  to  the  Emperor  Trajan  upon  the  numbers 
of  Christians  in  his  province  will  be  found  above,  Book  I.  pp.  49-62. 

8  Pliny,  Epist.  ad  Trajan,  96. 


Clement,  bishop  of  Rome  circa  A.D.  95,  writing  to  the 
Church  at  Corinth,  speaks  of  "  the  great  multitude  of  Chris 
tians  "  who  suffered  in  the  persecution  of  Nero,  A.D.  64.1 

Hermas,  in  his  book  termed  the  Shepherd,  shows  us 
that  in  the  reign  of  the  Emperor  Hadrian,  circa  A.D.  130-40, 
there  was  resident  a  large  number  of  Christians  in  the 
capital,  many  of  them  well-to-do  and  wealthy  citizens. 

Soter,  bishop  of  Rome,  writing  to  the  Church  of  Corinth,2 
shortly  after  A.D.  165,  refers  to  the  Christians  as  superior  in 
numbers  to  the  Jews,  no  doubt  especially  alluding  to  the  Roman 
congregation  mentioned. 

In  the  Acts  of  the  Martyrdom  of  Justin,  circa  A.D.  165, 
an  undoubtedly  genuine  piece,  Rusticus  the  Roman  prefect 
asks  Justin  where  the  Christians  assembled.  In  reply,  Justin 
said,  "  Where  each  one  chooses  and  can ;  for  do  you  imagine 
that  we  all  meet  in  the  very  same  place  ?  " 

Irenaeus  in  a  very  striking  passage,3  written  circa  A.D.  180, 
alludes  to  the  size  and  importance  of  the  Roman  congregation. 
His  words  are  as  follows  : 

"  Since,  however,  it  would  be  most  tedious  in  such  a 
volume  as  this  to  reckon  up  the  (Episcopal)  succession  of 
all  the  Churches,  \ve  confound  all  those  who  assemble  in 
unauthorized  meetings  by  indicating  the  tradition  handed 
down  from  the  apostles  of  the  most  great,  the  very  ancient, 
and  universally  known  Church  organized  by  the  two  most 
glorious  apostles,  Peter  and  Paul." 

The  statements  of  Tertullian  circa  A.D.  195-200  are  well 
known  and  are  often  quoted ;  and  though  they  are  probably 
exaggerated,  still  such  assertions,  although  they  are  rhetori 
cal  rather  than  simple  statistics,  would  never  have  been 
advanced  by  such  a  learned  and  weighty  writer  if  the  numbers 
of  the  Christians  of  his  time  (the  latter  years  of  the  second 
century)  had  not,  in  many  cities  and  countries,  been  very 

1  Clement  of  Rome,  Epist.  ad  Cor.  vi. 

2  The  quotation  referred  to  is  from  the  so-called  2nd  Epistle  of  Clement  of 
Rome   (section  2),  which   Harnack  attributes   to   Soter,  bishop   of   Rome. 
Lightfoot,  however,  places  the  Epistle  even  earlier  (circa  A.D.  140),  and  con 
siders  it  the  work  of  an  anonymous  writer. 

3  Irenaeus,  adv.  H&r.t  book  iii.  2. 


In  the  works  of  Tertullian  we  come  across  such  state 
ments  as  the  following  : 

"  The  grievance  (of  the  pagan  government)  is  that  the 
State  is  filled  with  Christians ;  that  they  are  in  the  fields, 
in  the  citadels,  in  blocks  of  houses  (which  fill  up  the  cities). 
It  grieves  (does  the  government),  as  over  some  calamity,  that 
both  sexes  indifferently,  all  ages,  every  condition,  even  persons 
of  high  rank,  are  passing  over  to  the  Christian  ranks."  1 

And  again  :  "  We  are  not  Indian  Brahmins  who  dwell  in 
forests  and  exile  themselves  from  the  common  life  of  men.  .  .  . 
We  company  with  you  in  the  world,  forsaking  neither  the  life 
of  the  Forum,  nor  the  Bath,  nor  Workshop,  nor  Inn,  nor 
Market-place,  nor  any  Mart  of  commerce.  We  sail  with 
you,  fight  with  you,  till  the  ground  with  you,  even  we 
share  in  the  various  arts."  2 

About  fifty  years  after  Tertullian 's  writing  just  quoted, 
Cornelius,  bishop  of  Rome,  A.D.  251,  in  an  Epistle  addressed 
to  Fabius,  bishop  of  Antioch,3  gives  some  official  statistics  of 
the  Roman  Church  in  his  days.1  Cornelius  particularizes  the 
classes  of  the  various  officials,  together  with  the  numbers 
of  persons  in  distress  who  were  on  the  lists  of  the  Church 
receiving  charitable  relief.  Scholars  and  experts,  basing  their 
calculations  upon  these  official  statistics,  variously  estimate 
the  numbers  of  Christians  in  the  city  of  Rome  at  from  30,000 
to  50,000,  the  latter  calculation  on  the  whole  being  probably 
nearest  to  the  truth. 

Lastly,  in  this  little  sketch  of  the  vast  numbers  of  dis 
ciples  who  at  a  very  early  date  had  joined  the  Christian  com 
munity,  the  changeless  testimony  of  the  Roman  catacombs 
must  be  cited.  Much  will  be  found  written  in  this  work 
regarding  these  enormous  cemeteries  of  the  Christian  dead. 
It  is  absolutely  certain  that  in  the  second  half  of  the  first 
century  these  catacombs  were  already  begun. 

The  words  of  the  eminent  German  scholar  Harnack  may 
well  be  quoted  here  :  "  The  number,  the  size,  and  the  extent 
of  the  Roman  catacombs  ...  is  so  great  that  even  from 
them  we  may  infer  the  size  of  the  Roman  Church,  its  steady 

1  Tertullian,  Apologeticus,  i.  2  Ibid.  42. 

'  Quoted  in  Eusebius,  H.  £.,  book  vi.  chap.  43.  *  See  below,  p.  120. 


growth,  its  adherents  from  distinguished  families,  its  spread 
all  over  Rome."  l 

The  foregoing  contemporary  witnesses,  including  the 
testimony  of  the  Church  to  the  size  and  numbers  of  the 
Christian  congregation,  speak  of  the  Roman  Christians  with 
two  notable  exceptions — the  pagan  Pliny  and  the  Christian 
Tertullian.  The  others,  including  Clement  of  Rome,  Hermas, 
Justin  Martyr,  Soter,  Irenaeus,  Cornelius,  are  specially  writing 
of  Rome  and  the  Christian  portion  of  its  population. 

But,  as  has  been  already  remarked,  what  was  written 
of  Rome  in  a  greater  or  less  degree  applies  to  other  great 
centres  of  population  in  the  Empire,  notably  to  such  centres 
as  Antioch  and  Ephesus,  Alexandria  and  Carthage. 

1  Professor    Harnack,  Mission   and  Expansion  of  Christianity,  book  iv. 
chap.  iii.  sec.  14. 



THE  Acts  of  the  Apostles,  the  Pauline  and  other  New 
Testament  Epistles,  bear  witness  to  the  favourable 
reception  of  the  preaching  of  the  new  faith.  Paul's 
success  in  Macedonia,  Achaia,  in  the  province  of  Asia,  and 
in  Galatia  had  been  extraordinary.  Peter  in  his  First  Epistle 
addresses  the  converts  already  scattered  throughout  Pontus, 
Galatia,  Cappadocia,  Asia,  and  Bithynia.  Paul  again  expressly 
mentions  in  a  letter  to  the  Roman  Christians,  that  the  faith 
of  the  Roman  Church  was  spoken  of  throughout  the  whole 

The  story  of  the  progress  of  Christianity  was  taken  up 
by  the  pagan  writers  Tacitus  and  Pliny,  and  was  dwelt  upon 
by  Clement  of  Rome,  Ignatius,  Hermas,  Justin,  Irenaeus,  and 
the  other  Christian  writers  of  the  first  and  second  centuries 
already  quoted. 

Thus  the  great  numbers  of  Christians  in  Rome  and  in  other 
centres  dating  from  primitive  days,  already  dwelt  upon  with 
some  detail,  is  a  clear  and  indisputable  fact. 

Nothing  did  more  for  the  progress  and  extension  of  the 
Christian  religion  than  the  constant  meeting  together,  the 
assemblies  of  the  various  congregations  of  believers. 

This  was  recognized  from  the  earliest  days.  We  read  in  the 
Epistle  to  the  Hebrews  (x.  25)  a  solemn  injunction  to  Christians 
not  "  to  forsake  the  assembling  of  ourselves  together,  as  the 
manner  of  some  is/' 

Definite  allusions  to  such  "  assemblies  of  believers  "  occur 
in  the  New  Testament  writings,  in  the  Acts  and  in  the 
Epistles,  e.g.  i  Cor.  xi.  20  and  following  verses,  Jas.  ii.  2-4. 

The  importance  attached  to  these  meetings  of  believers 
by  the  rulers  and  teachers  of  the  Church  of  the  first  days, 



is  manifest  from  the  chain  of  reminders  and  injunctions 
to  the  faithful  which  exists  in  the  contemporary  writings  we 
possess  of  leading  Christians,  dating  from  the  latter  years  of  the 
first  and  all  through  the  second  and  third  centuries. 

The  words  they  heard,  and  the  matters  decided  upon  at 
these  gatherings,  more  or  less  coloured  and  guided  the  life  and 
conduct  of  Christians  in  the  world.  From  the  first  the  Sunday 
meeting  seems  to  have  been  obligatory  ;  but  these  meetings  of 
the  brethren  were  by  no  means  confined  to  the  general  assembly 
on  Sunday.  So  we  read  in  the  Didache  (the  Teaching  of 
the  Apostles),  a  writing  probably  dating  from  the  latter  years 
of  the  first  century  :  "  Thou  shalt  seek  out  every  day  the 
company  of  the  Saints,  to  be  refreshed  by  their  words."  l 
"  Let  us,"  writes  Clement,  bishop  of  Rome  (circa  A.D.  95), 
"  ourselves  then  being  gathered  together  in  concord  with 
intentness  of  heart,  cry  unto  Him  as  from  one  mouth  earnestly, 
that  we  may  be  made  partakers  of  His  great  and  glorious 
promise."  2 

So  S.  Ignatius  (circa  A.D.  107-10)  in  his  Epistle  to  the 
Ephesian  Church  3  writes  :  "  Do  your  diligence  therefore  to 
meet  together  more  frequently  for  thanksgiving  to  God,  and  for 
His  glory  ;  for  when  ye  meet  together  frequently  the  powers  of 
Satan  are  cast  down,  and  his  mischief  cometh  to  nought  in 
the  concord  of  your  faith." 

In  his  letter  to  Polycarp  he  says  :  "  Let  meetings  be  held 
more  frequently."  4 

Barnabas  (circa  A.D.  120-30)  :  "  Keep  not  apart  by  your 
selves,  as  if  you  were  already  justified  ;  but  meet  together,  and 
confer  upon  the  common  weal. 5 

Justin  Martyr — in  his  first  Apology,  written  in  the  middle 
of  the  second  century — describes  these  meetings  of  the  brethren 
with  some  detail.6 

A  very  striking  passage  occurs  in  a  writing  of  Theophilus, 
the  sixth  bishop  of  Antioch,  addressed  to  his  friend  Autolycus. 
Its  date  is  between  A.D.  168  and  A.D.  181.  The  power  which 

1  DidachS,  iv.  2.  -  Clement  of  Rome,  Ep.  ad  Cor.  34. 

8  Ignatius,  ad  Eph.  13.  *  Ad  Polyc.  4. 

*  Barnabas,  Ep.  4. 

6  See  for  detailed  account  of  Justin  Martyr's  description,  p.  113. 


these  meetings  of   the   brethren  exercised  over  the  life  of 
Christians  is  described  as  follows  : 

"As  in  the  Sea  there  are  Islands  .  .  .  with  havens  and 
harbours  in  which  the  storm-tossed  may  find  refuge,  so  God 
has  given  to  the  world,  which  is  driven  and  tempest-tossed  by 
sins,  assemblies  ...  in  which  survive  the  doctrines  of  the 
truth,  as  in  the  island-harbours  of  good  anchorage  ;  and  into 
these  run  those  who  desire  to  be  saved  .  .  .  and  who  wish 
to  escape  the  wrath  and  judgment  of  God."  l 

1  Theophilus  to  Autolycus,  xiv. 



FROM  the  very  first  days,  it  is  certain  that  the  assemblies 
or  congregations  of  the  Christians  were  made  up  of  all 
classes  and  orders  of  the  people.  The  lower  classes, 
including  slaves,  freedmen,  artisans,  small  traders,  no  doubt 
were  in  the  majority ;  but  from  the  beginning,  persons  of 
position,  culture,  and  even  of  rank  were  certainly  reckoned 
among  them. 

In  the  days  of  the  apostles  we  hear  of  many  such.  Among 
the  earliest  believers  were  reckoned  a  Nicodemus,  a  Joseph  of 
Arimathea,  a  Barnabas,  a  Sergius  Paulus.  In  Acts  vi.  7 
mention  is  made  of  a  great  company  of  the  priests  obedient 
to  the  faith.  Chapter  x.  tells  us  of  the  centurion  who 
sent  for  S.  Peter.  Paul  himself  and  Stephen  were  men  of 
high  culture.  Priscilla  the  wife  of  Aquila  and  the  Phoebe  of 
Rom.  xvi.  i  were  evidently  persons  of  considerable  means. 
Others  might  be  named  in  these  categories.  S.  James  (ii.  14) 
in  his  picture  of  one  of  these  meetings  alludes  to  the  presence 
of  the  rich  among  the  worshippers.  Tacitus  speaks  of 
a  lady  of  distinguished  birth  (insignis  femina)  who  evidently 
belonged  to  the  Christian  ranks  ;  and  very  shortly  after,  some 
near  connexions  of  the  imperial  house  of  Domitian  were 
persecuted  for  their  faith. 

Pliny,  when  he  wrote  to  Trajan,  tells  him  how  many  of  all 
ranks  in  the  province  of  Bithynia  had  joined  the  Christian 

Ignatius  in  the  early  years  of  the  second  century,  writing 
to  the  Roman  Church,  gives  utterance  to  his  fear  lest  influential 
members  of  the  Church  should  intercede  for  him,  and  so  hinder 
his  being  exposed  to  the  beasts  in  the  amphitheatre  games. 


Roman  Christians  of  wealth  and  position  are  clearly 
alluded  to  by  Hermas  in  the  Shepherd  (Comm.  x.  i),  and 
he  assumes  the  presence  of  such  in  the  Roman  congregation 
(Simil.  i.  etc.) 

In  the  famous  dialogue  of  Minucius  Felix,  circa  A.D.  160, 
the  speakers  belong  to  the  higher  ranks ;  these  under  thinly 
disguised  names  were  probably  actual  personages  well  known 
in  their  day.  The  scene  and  story  of  the  writing,  the  class  of 
argument  brought  forward,  all  evidently  issued  from  and  were 
addressed  to  a  highly  cultured  circle. 

In  the  writings  of  Justin  Martyr,  dating  from  about  the 
middle  of  the  second  century,  are  various  references  to  the 
presence  of  wealthy  and  cultured  persons  in  the  Christian 
congregation  of  Rome. 

Clement  of  Alexandria  and  Tertullian,  whose  pictures  of 
Christian  life  belong  to  the  latter  years  of  the  second  century, 
bear  ample  testimony  to  the  same  fact.  Clement  even  wrote 
a  special  treatise  entitled,  What  rich  man  can  be  saved  ?  in  which 
he  refers  not  to  pagans  whose  conversion  to  Christianity  was 
to  be  aimed  at,  but  to  those  who  were  Christians  and  at  the 
same  time  wealthy.1 

Tertullian  again  and  again  refers  to  the  presence  of  the 
rich  and  the  noble  in  the  Christian  Churches,  in  such  passages 
where  he  speaks  of  thousands  of  every  age  and  rank  among 
the  brethren — of  officials  of  the  Empire,  of  officers  of  the 
imperial  household,  of  lawyers,  and  even  of  men  of  senatorial 
rank.  In  his  passionate  appeals,  too,  he  singles  out  fashionable 
ladies,  and  dwells  on  their  costly  dress  and  jewels. 

But  the  most  striking  proof  of  the  presence  of  many  high 
born  and  wealthy  members  of  the  Christian  Brotherhood 
in  this  congregation  dating  from  primitive  times,  after  all 
exists  in  that  wonderful  City  of  the  Dead  beneath  the  suburbs 
of  Rome  which  is  now  being  explored. 

These  Roman  catacombs,  as  they  are  termed,  in  the  large 

1  Harnack  well  observes  that  among  Clement  of  Alexandria's  writings, 
the  PcBdagogus  evidently  assumes  that  the  Church  for  which  its  teaching 
was  designed  embraced  a  large  number  of  cultured  people. 

The  same  conclusion  must  be  arrived  at  in  respect  of  many  of  Irenaeus' 
writings.  Irenaeus  wrote  in  the  last  quarter  of  the  second  century. 


majority  of  cases  in  the  first  instance  began  in  the  villa  gardens 
of  the  rich,  and  were,  as  time  went  on,  enlarged  by  their 
owners  in  order  to  offer  the  hospitality  of  the  tomb  to  their 
poorer  brothers  and  sisters. 

As  we  shall  see  in  our  chapter  dealing  with  these  all- 
important  memories  of  early  Roman  Christianity,  as  cemetery 
after  cemetery  is  examined  we  come  upon  more  and  more 
relics  in  marble  and  stone  which  tell  of  great  and  powerful 
Roman  families  who  had  thrown  in  their  lot  with  the  despised 
and  persecuted  people  who  had  accepted  the  story  of  Jesus 
of  Nazareth,  and  who,  in  common  with  the  slave  and  petty 
tradesman,  shared  in  the  hard  trials  of  the  Christian  life,  and 
welcomed  the  joys  and  solace  of  the  glorious  Christian  hope. 

These  striking  memories  of  the  Christian  dead,  who  in  life 
bore  great  names  and  possessed  ample  means,  date  from  the 
first  century  onward.  One  of  the  more  famous  of  these  very 
early  catacombs,  the  cemetery  of  Domitilla,  was  the  work 
of  the  members  of  the  imperial  family — of  near  relatives  of 
the  Emperor  Domitian. 

Indeed  the  composition  of  the  meetings  of  the  Christian 
Brotherhood  varied  very  little  from  the  days  of  Peter  and 
Paul  to  the  era  of  the  Emperor  Constantine.  The  numbers 
of  these  assemblies,  however,  increased  with  strange  rapidity. 
There  were,  of  course,  in  primitive  times  but  few  of  these 
assemblies.  By  the  end  of  the  third  century  there  were  in  the 
city  of  Rome  some  forty  basilicas,  each  with  its  separate  staff 
of  ministers  and  its  individual  congregation.1 

1  The  more  eminent  of  the  Gnostic  teachers  who  in  the  first  instance  separ 
ated  themselves  from  the  Christian  congregations,  as  far  as  we  can  judge  from 
the  comparatively  rare  fragments  which  we  possess  of  their  writings,  evidently 
had  in  view  highly  cultured  readers  and  listeners.  We  allude  especially  to 
Valentinus  and  his  famous  pupil  Heracleon.  These  Gnostic  writers  taught 
and  wrote  in  the  second  half  of  the  second  century.  The  period  of  activity 
of  the  second  of  these,  Heracleon,  is  generally  given  as  circa  A.D.  170-80. 
Valentinus  was  somewhat  earlier. 



JUSTIN  Martyr  in  his  first   Apology,  which  was  written, 
before  A.D.  139,  gives  us  a  good  picture  of  one  of  these 
primitive  Christian  assemblies  in  Rome.     The  early  date 
of  this  writing  enables  us  to  form  an  accurate  idea  of  the 
outward  procedure  of  one  of  these  most  important  factors 
in    the    Christian    life    in    the    first    half    of    the    second 

Justin  has  been  explaining  the  nature  of  the  Eucharist ; 
he  then  goes  on  to  say  :  "  We  continually  remind  each  other 
of  these  things.  And  the  rich  among  us  help  the  poor, 
and  we  always  keep  together ;  and  for  all  things  which 
are  given  us,  we  bless  the  Maker  of  all  through  His  Son  Jesus 
Christ,  and  through  the  Holy  Ghost.  And  on  the  day  called 
Sunday,  all  who  live  in  cities  or  in  the  country  gather  together 
to  one  place,  and  the  '  Memoirs  of  the  Apostles  '  or  the  writings 
of  the  Prophets  are  read,  as  time  allows  ;  then  when  the  reader 
has  done,  the  president  (of  the  assembly),  in  an  address,  in 
structs,  and  exhorts  to  the  imitation  of  the  good  things  (which 
had  formed  the  subject  of  the  address).  Then  we  all  rise 
and  pray ;  and  when  our  prayer  is  ended,  bread  and  wine  and 
water  are  brought,  and  the  president  offers  prayers  and 
thanksgivings  according  to  his  ability  ;  and  the  people  assent, 
saying,  Amen ;  and  there  is  a  distribution  to  each,  and  a 
participation  of  that  over  which  thanks  have  been  given  ; 
and  to  those  who  are  absent  a  portion  is  sent  by  the  deacons. 
"  And  they  who  are  well-to-do  and  willing,  give  what  each 
thinks  fit ;  and  what  is  collected  is  deposited  with  the  president, 
who  succours  the  orphans  and  widows,  and  those  who  through 
sickness  or  any  other  cause  are  in  want,  and  those  who  are 
8  II3 


in  bonds,  and  the  stranger  sojourning  among  us — in  a  word, 
takes  care  of  all  who  are  in  need. 

"  Sunday  is  the  day  on  which  we  all  hold  our  common 

Justin  goes  on  to  explain  the  reason  of  the  choice  of  Sunday, 
dwelling  especially  on  the  fact  of  Jesus  Christ  having  risen  from 
the  dead  on  that  day. 

Such  is  a  sketch  of  the  framework  of  one  of  these  primitive 
meetings  of  the  Christian  Brotherhood,  drawn  by  an  eye-witness 
some  time  in  the  first  half  of  the  second  century,  at  most  thirty 
or  forty  years  after  S.  John's  death. 

It  is  a  little  picture  of  a  gathering  composed  of  all  sorts  and 
conditions  of  men  and  women,  of  slaves  and  freedmen,  of 
artisans,  tradesmen,  and  soldiers,  with  a  certain  admixture  of 
cultured  and  wealthy  persons,drawn  together  in  the  first  instance 
by  the  pressure  of  the  burden  of  the  awful  sadness  of  life,  by  a 
belief,  hazy  at  first,  but  growing  clearer  and  more  definite 
every  day,  as  the  congregation  listened  to  these  teachers  who 
dwelt  on  the  words  and  acts  of  the  Divine  Redeemer  who  had 
visited  this  earth  for  their  sakes. 

For  they  came  together  to  hear  more  of  the  Redeemer  who 
had  sojourned  so  lately  among  men.  They  listened  while  the 
Christian  teacher  who  presided  over  the  gathering  explained  the 
historic  words,the  commandments  and  promises  of  that  pitiful, 
loving  Master  who  had  entered  into  their  life  ;  they  would  then 
partake  of  the  mystic  Eucharist  feast  together  ;  and  as  they 
partook  of  the  sacred  bread  and  wine  as  He  had- bidden  His 
followers  to  do  in  memory  of  Him  and  His  death  and  suffering 
for  their  sakes,  they  would  feel  He  was  indeed  in  their  midst, 
and  that  new  life,  new  hope  were  theirs. 

The  dogmatic  teaching  in  these  early  assemblies  was  very 
simple,  but  strangely  sublime.  It  was  given  in  a  language 
every  one  could  understand.  It  went  home  to  the  hearts  of  all 
—of  the  wise  and  unlearned  alike.  The  story  of  the  Gospels, 
the  wonderful  words  of  the  Master — were  at  once  the  text  and 
subject  of  every  sermon  and  exposition. 

We  have  among  our  precious  reliquiae  of  the  earliest  days 
enough  to  show  us  what  was  the  groundwork  of  this  primitive 


An  atonement  had  been  made  by  the  Divine  One  who  had 
come  among  men  ;  He  had  suffered  for  them,  and  by  His 
suffering  had  redeemed  them.  In  all  the  earliest  Christian 
writings  which  we  possess,  thisjgreat  truth  is  repeated  again 
and  again.  With  adoring  gratitude  the  Christian  Brotherhood 
loved  and  worshipped  Him.  Jesus  Christ  was  the  centre  of  all 
their  hopes — the  source  of  their  strange,  newly  found  happi 

Very  briefly  we  will  quote  a  very  few  of  these  important 
dogmatic  sayings  pressed  home  to  the  believers  when  they  met 

Clement  of  Rome — circa  A.D.  95  : 

"  Let  us  fix  our  eyes  on  the  blood  of  Christ,  and  understand 
how  precious  it  is  unto  His  Father,  because  being  shed  for  our 
salvation." — Ep.  i.  7. 

"  Let  us  fear  the  Lord  Jesus  whose  blood  was  given  for 
us." — Ep.  i.  ii. 

"  Jesus  Christ  our  Lord  hath  given  His  blood  for  us,  by  the 
will  of  God  .  .  .  His  life  for  our  lives." — Ep.  i.  49. 

Ignatius  of  Antioch — circa  A.D.  107—10. 

"  It  is  evident  to  me  that  you  are  living  not  after  men  but 
after  Jesus  Christ  who  died  for  us,  that  believing  on  His  death 
ye  might  escape  death." — Ep.  ad  Trail.  2. 

"  Him  (Jesus  Christ)  I  seek,  who  died  on  our  behalf ;  Him  I 
desire,  who  rose  again  (for  our  sake)." — Ep.  ad  Rom.  6. 

After  relating  the  passion  of  the  Cross,  Ignatius  went  on  to 
say  :  "  For  He  suffered  these  things  for  our  sakes  (that  we 
might  be  saved)." — Ep.  ad  Smyrn.  1,2. 

"  Even  the  heavenly  beings,  and  the  glory  of  the  angels, 
and  the  rulers  visible  and  invisible,  if  they  believe  not  in  the 
blood  of  Christ  (who  is  God),  judgment  awaiteth  them  also."- 
Ep.  ad  Smyrn.  6. 

"  Await  Him  .  .  .  the  Eternal,  the  Invisible,  who  became 
visible  for  our  sakes ;  the  Impalpable,  the  Impassible,  who 

1  This  is  strikingly  put  by  F.  W.  Myers  in  his  poem  "  S.  Paul "  : 

"This  hath  he  done  and  shall  we  not  adore  Him  ? 

This  shall  He  do  and  can  we  still  despair  ? 

Come  let  us  quickly  fling  ourselves  before  Him, 

Cast  at  His  feet  the  burden  of  our  care." 


suffered  for  our  sake,  who  endured  in  all  ways  for  our  sake." — 
Ep.  ad  Poly  carp,  3. 

Epistle  to  Diognetus, — early  in  second  century, — an 
anonymous  writing  : 

"  He  Himself  took  on  Him  the  burden  of  our  iniquities, 
He  gave  His  own  Son  as  a  ransom  for  us,  the  Holy  One 
for  transgressors,  the  blameless  One  for  the  wicked,  the 
righteous  One  for  the  unrighteous,  the  incorruptible  One 
for  the  corruptible,  the  immortal  One  for  them  that  are 

"  For  what  other  thing  was  capable  of  covering  our  sins 
than  His  righteousness  ?  By  what  other  One  was  it  possible 
that  we,  the  wicked  and  the  ungodly,  could  be  justified,  than 
by  the  only  Son  of  God  ?  " 

"  Oh  sweet  exchange  !  Oh  unsearchable  operation  !  Oh 
benefits  surpassing  expectation  !  that  the  wickedness  of  many 
shall  be  hid  in  a  single  righteous  One,  and  that  the  righteous 
ness  of  One  should  justify  many  transgressors  !  " 

"  Having  therefore  convinced  us  in  the  former  time  that  our 
nature  was  unable  to  attain  to  life,  and  having  now  revealed 
the  Saviour  who  is  able  to  save  even  those  things  which  it  was 
(formerly)  impossible  to  save,  by  both  these  facts  He  desired 
to  lead  us  to  trust  in  His  kindness,  to  deem  Him  our  Minister — 
Father — Teacher — Counsellor — Healer — our  Wisdom,  Light, 
Honour,  Glory,  Power  and  Life." — Ep.  ad  Diog.  ix. 

Shepherd  of  Her  mas — written  circa  A.D.  140. 

"  He  Himself  (the  Son  of  God)  then  having  purged  away 
the  sins  of  the  people,  showed  them  the  paths  of  life,  by  giving 
them  the  law  which  He  received  from  His  Father." 

Epistle  of  Barnabas — written  circa  A.D.  120-50  : 

"  For  to  this  end  the  Lord  endured  to  deliver  up  His  flesh 
to  corruption,  that  we  might  be  sanctified  through  the  re 
mission  of  sins,  which  is  effected  by  His  blood  of  sprinkling.  "- 
Ep.  Barnabas,  v. 

"  If,  therefore,  the  Son  of  God,  who  is  Lord  (of  all  things), 
and  who  will  judge  the  living  and  the  dead,  suffered,  that 
His  stroke  might  give  us  life,  let  us    believe  that  the  Son 
of   God  could  not  have  suffered  except  for  our  sakes."- 
Ep.  Barnabas,  vii. 


"  Thou  shall  love  Him  that  created  thee,  thou  shalt  glorify 
Him  that  redeemed  thee  from  death." — Ep.  Barnabas,  xix. 
Justin  Martyr — writing  between  circa  A.D.  114  and  A.D. 


"  Isaiah,"  wrote  Justin,   "  did  not  send  you  to  a  laver, 
there  to  wash  away  murder  and  other  sins  ;  but  those  who 
repented  were  purified  by  faith  through  the  blood  of  Christ, 
and  through  His  death,  who   died   for   this   very  reason. "- 
Dial,  with  Trypho,  xiii. 

Writing  of  Jesus  Christ,  Justin  comments  thus  on  the  words 
written  by  Moses  as  prophesied  by  the  patriarch  Jacob : 
"  He  shall  wash  his  garments  with  wine,  and  his  vesture 
with  the  blood  of  the  grape."  This  signified  that  "  He  (Jesus 
Christ)  would  wash  those  who  believe  in  Him  with  His  own 
blood." — Dial,  with  Trypho,  liv. 

"  If,  then,  the  Father  of  all  wished  His  Christ  to  take  upon 
Him  the  curses  of  all,  knowing  that  after  He  had  been  crucified 
and  was  dead,  He  would  raise  Him  up  "  .  .  . 

"  For  although  His  Father  caused  Him  to  suffer  these 
things  in  behalf  of  the  human  family  "... 

"  If  His  Father  wished  Him  to  suffer  thus  in  order  that 
by  His  stripes  the  human  race  might  be  healed." — Dial,  with 
Trypho,  xcv. 

"  And  as  the  blood  of  the  Passover  saved  those  who  were 
in  Egypt,  so  also  the  blood  of  Christ  will  deliver  from  death 
those  who  have  believed." — Dial,  with  Trypho,  cxi. 

In  well-nigh  all  these  reliquiae  of  the  earliest  Christian 
teaching,  copious  use  was  made  of  that  wonderful  53rd  chapter 
of  Isaiah,  in  which  the  Hebrew  seer  sketched  with  a  startling 
accuracy  of  detail  some  of  the  leading  features  of  the  awful 
drama  of  the  Divine  Atonement  for  all  sin.1  The  scene  of 
this  drama  was  the  storied  Holy  City,  and  the  One  who 
made  the  great  Atonement  was  He  who  on  earth  was  known 
as  Jesus  Christ  and  in  heaven  as  the  Son  of  God. 

1  The  more  notable  of  the  Atonement  prophecy  passages  in  Isaiah  were  : 
"Surely  He  hath  borne  our  griefs,  and  carried  our  sorrows.  ...  He  was 
wounded  for  our  transgressions,  He  was  bruised  for  our  iniquities:  the  chasten 
ing  of  our  peace  was  upon  Him ;  and  with  His  stripes  we  are  healed.  .  .  .  He 
shall  see  of  the  travail  of  His  soul,  and  be  satisfied  :  by  His  knowledge  shall  my 
righteous  Servant  justify  many;  for  He  shall  bear  their  iniquities"  (Isa.  liii.). 


The  above  "  Catena  Aurea  "  (golden  chain)  of  passages 
is  taken  from  the  works  we  possess  of  the  earliest  teachers 
of  Christianity  who  wrote  in  the  fifty  years  immediately  follow 
ing  the  passing  of  S.  John  the  beloved  apostle,  and  they  tell 
us  exactly  what  was  the  doctrine  pressed  home  to  the  Brother 
hood  in  the  early  assemblies  of  Christians  of  which  we  are  here 

There  were  other  dogmas,  no  doubt,  included  in  the  teaching 
of  these  early  assemblies  and  meetings,  such  as  the  resurrec 
tion  of  the  flesh ;  the  great  reckoning  before  the  Judge,  at 
which  even  the  just  would  tremble  were  it  not  that  the  Judge 
was  at  the  same  time  their  Redeemer  and  loving  Friend. 
The  unspeakable  joys  of  Paradise,  the  garden  of  their  God 
and  Saviour,  were  constantly  dwelt  upon,  and  the  good  glad 
tidings  would  fall  like  dew  from  heaven  upon  the  world- 
weary,  sad-eyed  listeners. 

But  the  great  doctrine  of  the  "  Atonement,"  at  once  simple 
and  sublime,  so  repeatedly  pressed  home  in  the  above  quoted 
words  of  the  earliest  teachers,  was  no  doubt  the  strongest 
inducement  which  drew  the  Christian  folk  to  meet  often 
together — was  the  link  which  bound  them  into  one  brother 
hood,  and  knit  them  at  the  same  time  to  the  loving 

It  was  a  new  preaching,  this  secret  of  the  great  love 
of  God  which  passeth  understanding,  and  one  that  excited 
wonderful  and  soul-stirring  fears  and  hopes,  and  which  filled 
the  small  dark  corridors  and  low-browed  chapels  of  the  Roman 
catacombs  which  the  faithful  often  used  as  meeting-homes 
for  teaching  and  for  prayer,  with  what  seemed  to  the  groups 
of  worshippers  verily  a  Divine  light ;  and  to  these  early  Chris 
tian  worshippers,  the  gloomy  rough-hewn  sleeping-places  of 
the  dead,  through  which  the  pilgrim  traveller  now  wanders 
and  wonders,  seemed  to  them  the  very  ante-chambers  of 

We  have  dwelt  with  some  insistence  upon  the  dogmatic 
teaching  which  without  doubt  formed  a  part,  and  that  by  no 
means  an  inconsiderable  part,  of  the  procedure  of  the  primitive 
gatherings  of  Christians ;  for  it  is  often  urged  that  the  great 
bond  which  united  the  brethren  of  the  very  early  Church 


was  only  the  beautiful  mutual  love  and  charity  urged  in 
these  gatherings. 

There  is  some  truth  in  this  assertion.  It  was  a  new  life 
which  was  preached,  and  to  a  certain  extent  lived,  by  the 
Christian  Brotherhood.  It  was  a  life  quite  different  to  any 
thing  which  had  existed  before  the  Redeemer  went  in  and 
out  among  men.  We  shall  dwell  on  it  presently  ;  but  it  must 
never  be  forgotten  that  the  mainspring  of  this  new  life  was 
the  doctrine  of  the  Cross — of  the  Atonement  made  by  that 
Divine  One  who  had  founded  the  new  religion. 

The  belief  in  the  supreme  Divinity  of  Jesus,  who  had  come 
from  heaven  to  redeem  men,  was  the  foundation  story  of 
the  wonderful  love  and  boundless  charity  which  lived  in  their 
midst, — a  love  which  charmed  the  hearts  of  all  sorts  and  con 
ditions  of  men,  and  attracted  more  and  ever  more  weary 
and  heavy-laden  men  and  women  to  join  the  company  of 


The  duty  and  delight  of  materially  assisting  the  poor  and 
sad-eyed  brothers  and  sisters  of  the  community  became  an 
absorbing  passion  in  the  lives  of  very  many  of  the  rich  and 
well-to-do  members  of  each  congregation  ;  and  in  populous 
centres  the  abundance  of  the  alms  publicly  contributed  or 
privately  given  is  a  sure  indication  that  many  well-to-do 
and  even  wealthy  persons  were  at  an  early  date  numbered 
among  the  Christians. 

The  splendid  charities  of  the  Church  of  the  first  days  no 
doubt  did  much  to  bring  about  the  rapid  progress  of  the 
religion  of  Jesus.  There  was  an  intense  reality  in  the  love  of 
the  Christians  of  the  first  days  for  one  another.  "  See,"  says 
Tertullian  (Apol.  xxxix.,  quoting  from  the  pagan  estimate  of 
the  new  society,  "  how  they  love  one  another."  So  Caecilius 
(in  Mimtcius  Felix,  ix.)  tells  us  "  they  love  one  another  almost 
before  they  are  acquainted." 

Justin  Martyr,  in  his  picture  already  quoted  of  a  Christian 
assembly  in  the  first  half  of  the  second  century,  speaks,  as  we 
have  seen,  in  detail  of  the  destination  of  the  alms  collected.1 

1  See  above,  pp.  113,  114. 


Tertullian,  writing  in  the  last  years  of  the  same  century  on 
what  took  place  at  these  meetings  of  the  brethren,  relates  how 
"  each  of  us  puts  in  a  small  amount  one  day  in  the  month,  or 
whenever  he  pleases,  but  only  if  he  pleases,  and  if  he  is  able  ; 
for  there  is  no  compulsion  in  the  matter,  every  one  contribut 
ing  of  his  own  free  will.  The  amounts  so  collected  are  expended 
on  poor  orphans,  in  support  of  old  folk,  ...  on  those  who  are 
in  the  mines,  or  exiled,  or  in  prison,  so  long  as  their  distress  is 
for  the  sake  of  God's  fellowship." 

We  notice  how  often  it  is  repeated  that  all  these  offerings 
are  purely  voluntary — the  idea  of  communism  l  was  absolutely 
unknown  in  the  Church  of  the  first  days.  The  fact  that  there 
were  rich  and  poor  is  ever  acknowledged.  This  is  especially 
marked  in  the  tombs  of  the  catacombs,  where  the  rich  were 
laid  to  sleep  in  costly  and  even  in  splendidly  adorned  chambers, 
leading  out  of  the  corridors  where  the  bodies  of  the  poorer 
ones  were  tenderly  and  reverently  buried,  but  in  far  humbler 
and  unadorned  resting-places. 

In  less  that  fifty  years  after  Tertullian's  time,  Cornelius, 
bishop  of  Rome,  in  a  letter  written  circa  A.D.  250  (quoted 
by  Eusebius,  H.  E.  vi.  43),  gives  us  a  fairly  exhaustive  cata 
logue  of  the  officials  and  the  persons  in  distress  supported 
by  the  voluntary  contributions  of  the  Roman  Brotherhood. 
He  enumerates  forty-six  presbyters,  seven  deacons,  seven 
sub-deacons,  forty-two  acolytes,  fifty-two  exorcists,  readers, 
and  doorkeepers,  together  with  fifteen  hundred  widows  and 
persons  in  poverty  maintained  constantly  by  the  alms  of  the 

It  is  evident  from  the  references  in  writings  of  the  second 
century  that  almsgiving  in  the  Church  of  the  first  days  occupied 
in  the  hearts  of  believers  a  higher  place,  a  far  more  important 

1  If  the  experiment  of  "  communism  "  in  the  early  Christian  Church  was 
ever  tried,  it  was  in  the  congregation  of  Jerusalem,  and  there  it  is  clear  that 
the  results  were  simply  disastrous  ;  very  soon  the  Church  of  Jerusalem  was 
reduced  to  the  direst  straits.  There  are  very  many  allusions  to  this  state  of 
things  in  S.  Paul's  Epistles,  where  collections  for  the  "  poor  saints  in  Jerusalem  " 
are  constantly  mentioned  ;  yet  even  in  that  Church,  where  apparently  some 
attempt  at  a  community  of  goods  was  evidently  made,  entire  renunciation 
was  evidently,  as  we  see  in  the  case  of  Ananias  and  Sapphira,  never  obligatory, 
but  was  ever  purely  voluntary. 


position,  than  it  filled  in  the  dogmatic  teaching  of  mediaeval 
and  yet  later  times. 

The  immeasurable  work  effected  by  the  blessed  Redeemer 
is  never  minimized  by  the  earliest  and  most  weighty  of  the 
Christian  teachers,  as  we  have  seen  in  our  little  chain  of  quoted 
passages  ;  but  it  is  indisputable  that  they  considered  that 
something  might  be  done  by  men  themselves.  Anns,  accord 
ing  to  these  early  instructors,  held  a  very  high  position  in  the 
new  beautiful  life  they  taught  men  who  loved  the  Lord  to 
strive  after. 

We  will  quote  a  few  prominent  examples  of  this  very  early 
teaching  which,  of  course,  was  pressed  home  to  the  Brotherhood 
who  gathered  together  in  these  primitive  assemblies  ;  and  to 
a  large  extent  we  see  that  this  somewhat  peculiar  dogmatic 
teaching  concerning  the  value  of  almsgiving  had  a  marked 
and  striking  effect  upon  the  listeners. 

For  instance,  in  the  Didache  (Teaching  of  the  Apostles), 
written  in  the  last  years  of  the  first  century,  we  read  : 

"  If  thou  possessest  (anything)  by  thy  hands,  thou  shalt 
give  a  ransom  for  thy  sins." — Didache,  iv. 

This  was  no  new  idea  in  Hebrew  theology  ;  see  Dan.  iv.  27  : 
"  Break  off  thy  sins  by  righteousness,  and  thine  iniquities  by 
showing  mercy  to  the  poor."  See  Prov.  xvi.  6,  and  also 
Tob.  xii.  8,  9. 

So  in  the  Testaments  of  the  XII.  Patriarchs,  put  out  in  the 
first  quarter  of  the  second  century  : 

"  For  in  proportion  as  a  man  is  pitiful  to  the  poor,  will  the 
Lord  be  pitiful  towards  him  "  (Zabulon  7). 

"  Almsgiving  therefore  is  a  good  thing,  even  as  repentance 
from  sin.  Fasting  is  better  than  prayer,  but  almsgiving  than 
both  ;  and  '  love  covereth  a  multitude  of  sins/  1  but  prayer 
out  of  a  good  conscience  delivereth  from  death.  Blessed  is 
every  man  that  is  found  full  of  these.  For  almsgiving  lifteth 
off  the  burden  of  sin." — 2nd  Epistle  of  Clement  (part,  of  an 
ancient  homily  put  out  circa  A.D.  130  to  150). 2 

1  The  writer  here  evidently  means  "  atones  for  a  multitude  of  our  own 
sins  "  ;  so  Tertullian,  Scorpiace,  6  (see  Bishop  Lightfoot,  Clement  of  Rome, 
part  i.  vol.  ii.  p.  232). 

2  See  note  (p.  1 04)  on  authorship  and  date  of  2nd  Epistle  of  Clement  of  Rome. 


S.  Cyprian  about  the  middle  of  the  third  century  develops 
almsgiving  into  a  formal  means  of  grace,  and  indeed  assigns  a 
distinct  propitiatory  value  to  alms,  representing  them  as  a 
means  of  prolonging  the  effectiveness  of  baptism  and  abolish 
ing  subsequent  frailties.1 

Lactantius — Inst.  vi.  12 — circa  end  of  fourth  century  : 

"  Mercy  has  a  great  reward  (magna  est  misericordia  merces), 
for  God  promises  to  it  that  He  will  remit  all  sins." 

5.  Chrysostom  speaks  of  this  as  "  the  medicine  for  our  sins." 

In  the  Apostolical  Constitutions,  vii.  12  (probably  put  out 
in  the  form  that  we  possess  them  circa  the  end  of  the  fourth 
or  early  in  the  fifth  century) ,  we  read  : 

"  If  thou  hast  (acquired  anything  by  the  work  of  thy 
hands)  give,  that  thou  mayest  labour  for  the  redemption  of 
thy  sins  ;  for  by  alms  and  acts  of  faith  sins  are  purged  away." 

All  this  is  somewhat  an  exaggerated  development  of  a 
teaching  which  in  the  primitive  Church  undoubtedly  elevated 
almsgiving  to  a  chief  place  in  Christian  practice  ;  but  that 
charity  and  kindness  to  the  poor  and  needy  in  primitive 
times  often  were  regarded  positively  as  a  formal  means  of 
grace,  is  clear  from  the  weighty  early  references  just  quoted, 
such  honoured  names  as  Cyprian  and  later  even  Chrysostom 
appearing  among  the  supporters  of  this  view.  That  it  was 
an  exaggerated  estimate  is,  however,  clear  from  the  plain  words 
of  Paul  in  his  exquisite  Psalm  of  Love  (i  Cor.  xiii.),  where 
under  the  general  term  of  love  or  charity  he  expressly  in 
cludes  much  besides  mere  almsgiving. 

But,  apart  from  this  somewhat  curious  development  and 
perhaps  exaggerated  view,  there  remains  the  undisputed 
fact  that  almsgiving  was  urged  upon  the  primitive  con 
gregations  of  Christians  with  a  force  and  insistency  quite 
unknown  in  mediaeval  and  modern  times ;  and  the  splendid 
voluntary  generosity  to  the  poor  and  needy  and  forlorn  on 
the  part  not  only  of  the  well-to-do,  but  of  all  who  had  anything 
to  give,  however  little,  was  no  doubt  a  most  important  element 
in  the  rapid  extension  of  the  Christian  religion.  It  demon 
strated,  as  nothing  else  could,  the  real  and  intense  love  of 
Christians  one  for  the  other.  It  was  verity  a  brotherhood,  and 

1  See  Archbishop  Benson,  Cyprian,  vi.  i. 


constantly,  even  in  the  most  exalted  quarters,1  evoked  the 
grudging  admiration  of  the  bitterest  foes  of  the  religion 
of  Jesus. 

So  numerous,  so  touching,  so  insistent  are  the  early 
references  here,  that  it  would  be  simply  impossible  to 
quote  even  a  small  part  of  them.  But  a  very  few  examples 
from  early  writings  will,  however,  show  what  was  the  nature 
of  the  exhortations  and  teaching  here  which  we  know  were 
pressed  home  in  every  one  of  these  early  gatherings  of  the 
Christian  Brotherhood. 

The  ist  Epistle  of  Clement  to  the  Corinthians  (circa  A.D. 
90  or  earlier)  has  been  well  described  as  matchless  in  early 
Christian  literature  as  an  elaborate  and  effective  piece  of 
writing,  lit  up  with  all  the  brotherly  affection  of  the  Church. 

Such  sentences  as  these  occur  in  the  Epistle  :  "  Who  did 
not  proclaim  your  splendid  hospitality  (to  strangers) — you 
did  everything  without  respect  of  persons  .  .  .  you  are  more 
ready  to  give  than  to  take.  Day  and  night  you  agonized 
for  all  the  Brotherhood,  that  by  means  of  comparison  and 
care  the  number  of  God's  elect  might  be  saved.  You  never 
rued  an  act  of  kindness,  but  were  ready  for  every  good  work." 

In  the  Didache  (Teaching  of  the  Apostles)  we  come 
across  such  directions  as— 

"  To  every  one  that  asketh  thee  give,  and  ask  not  back ; 
for  to  all  the  Father  wishes  to  give  of  His  own  gracious  gifts/' 

"  Blessed  is  he  that  giveth.  .  .  .  Let  thine  alms  drop  like 
sweat  into  thy  hands,  so  long  as  thou  knowest  to  whom  thou 
givest"  This  last  injunction,  from  the  way  it  is  introduced, 
is  probably  a  reference  to  some  unwritten  traditional  saying 
spoken  by  our  Lord  Himself. — Didache,  i. 

"  Thou  shalt  not  hesitate  to  give,  nor  in  giving  shalt  thou 
murmur." — Didache,  iv. 

'  Thou  shalt  not  turn  away  from  the  needy,  but  thou  shalt 
share  all  things  with  thy  brother  ;  and  thou  shalt  not  say  that 

1  The  Emperor  Julian's  well-known  Letter  to  Arsacius  is  a  good  example. 
It  is  clear  that  charity  did  not  restrict  itself  to  the  "  Household  of  Faith." 
Cyprian  and  his  congregation's  action  in  the  Great  Plague  of  Carthage  is  a 
good  example  of  this.  See  below,  p.  127. 


they  are  thine  own  :  for  if  ye  are  fellow  partakers  in  that 
which  is  immortal,  how  much  more  in  things  which  are  mortal." 
— Didache,  iv. 

Aristides — circa  A.D.  130-40  : 

'  They  (the  Christians)  love  one  another,  and  from  the 
widows  they  do  not  turn  away  their  countenance,  and  they 
rescue  the  orphan  .  .  .  and  he  who  has,  gives  to  him  who 
has  not  without  grudging  .  .  .  and  if  they  hear  that  any 
of  their  number  is  imprisoned  or  oppressed  for  the  name  of 
their  Messiah,  all  of  them  provide  for  his  needs.  .  .  .  And 
if  there  is  among  them  a  man  that  is  poor  and  needy,  and 
they  have  not  an  abundance  of  necessaries,  they  fast  two 
or  three  days,  that  they  may  supply  the  needy  with  their 
necessary  food."  l — Apol.  xv. 

Hermas — Shepherd — circa  A.D.  135-40  : 
'  You  know  that  you,  servants  of  God,  dwell  in  a  foreign 
land,  for  your  city  is  far  from  this  city.  If,  then,  you  know 
the  city  where  you  are  to  dwell,  why  provide  your 
selves  here  with  fields  and  costly  luxuries  ?  He  who 
makes  such  provision  for  this  city  has  no  mind  to  return 
to  his  own  city.  .  .  .  Instead  of  fields,  then,  buy  souls  in 
trouble  as  each  of  you  is  able.  Visit  widows  and  orphans, 
and  neglect  them  not  ;  expend  on  such  fields  and  houses, 
God  has  given  you  your  wealth  and  all  your  gains.  The 
Master  endowed  you  with  riches  that  you  might  perform 
such  ministries  for  Him. 

"  Far  better  is  it  to  buy  fields,  possessions,  houses  of  this 
kind.  Thou  wilt  find  them  in  thine  own  city  when  thou 
dost  visit  it.  Such  expenditure  is  noble  and  joyous :  it 
brings  gladness,  not  fear  and  sorrow." — Simil.  i. 

Harnack,  Mission,  etc.,  of  Christianity  (book  ii.  chap,  i.), 
commenting  on  this  passage  of  the  Shepherd,  has  an  inter 
esting  and  suggestive  Note,  in  which  he  says  :  "  For  all  the 

1  The  last  clause  is  a  very  important  one.  It  tells  us  that  to  the  collections 
made  in  the  assembly  for  the  poor  and  needy,  even  the  poorest  artisan  and 
slave  contributed,  and  positively  fasted  for  two  or  three  days  that  they  might 
save  the  necessary  few  coins  to  help  those  poorer  and  more  sorrowful  than 

On  this  beautiful  act  of  Christian  charity,  see,  too,  such  passages  as  Hermas 
Shepherd,  Simil.  hi. 


vigour  of  his  counsel,  however,  it  never  occurs  to  Hermas 
that  the  distinction  between  the  rich  and  the  poor  should 
cease  within  the  Church.  This  is  plain  from  the  next  Simili 
tude  or  Parable  (ii.).  The  saying  of  Jesus,  too,  S.  John 
xii.  8, '  The  poor  ye  have  always  with  you/  shows  that  the 
abolition  of  the  distinction  between  rich  and  poor  was  never 
contemplated  in  the  Church/' 

Hermas — Shepherd.— "  Not  hesitating  as  to  whom  you 
are  to  give  or  not  to  give,  for  God  wishes  His  gifts  to  be  shared 
by  all." — Comm.  2. 

"  Rescuing    the  servants  of  God  from  necessities — being 
hospitable,  for    in  hospitality   good    doing   finds  a  field."- 
Comm.  8. 

Polycarp — Epistle  (written  early  in  the  second  century)  : 

"  In  love  of  the  brotherhood,  kindly  affectioned  one  to 
another  .  .  .  when  ye  are  able  to  do  good,  defer  it  not,  for 
pitifulness  delivereth  from  death." — Epistle,  10. 

A  short  sketch  of  the  practical  side  of  the  teaching  current 
at  these  meetings  of  the  brethren  will  complete  our  descrip 
tion  of  these  primitive  Christian  gatherings.  The  teaching 
dwelt  on  duties  for  the  most  part  absolutely  novel  to  the 
Roman  world  of  the  first  and  second  centuries  of  our  era. 
The  inescapable  duties  pressed  home  to  the  listeners  were 
duties  generally  quite  unknown  to  noble,  artisan,  or  slave 
in  Roman  society  of  the  first  three  centuries.  If  carried  out 
they  would  essentially  change  the  old  view  of  life  current 
in  all  grades  of  the  Roman  world. 

As  before,  we  draw  our  information  exclusively  from  the 
remains  of  very  early  Christian  letters  (Epistles)  and  tractates 
of  well-known  and  honoured  teachers  in  the  Brotherhood 
which  have  been  preserved  to  us. 

The  practical  side  of  the  teaching  current  in  the  gatherings 
was  very  largely  based  on  the  strange,  beautiful,  but  per 
fectly  novel  saying  of  the  Founder  of  the  religion.  It  was, 
in  fact,  a  new  language  which  was  used  : 

"  Thou  shalt  love  thy  neighbour  as  thyself."  The  instruc 
tions  given  in  the  early  assemblies  defined  the  term  "  neigh 
bour,"  and  explained  how  the  love  enjoined  was  to  be  especi 
ally  shown. 


Now  in  all  the  early  Christian  writings  the  persons  to  be 
helped  in  the  first  place  seem  invariably  to  have  been  "  the 
widows  and  orphans  "  of  the  new  Society ;  for  example,  S. 
James,  the  Lord's  disciple,  writes  how  "  pure  religion  and 
undefiled  before  God  and  the  Father  is  this,  to  visit  the  father 
less  and  widow  in  their  affliction,"  etc.  (i.  27). 

Hermas — circa  A.D.  135-40 — in  his  list  of  good  deeds  which 
ought  to  be  done,  after  faith  and  the  fear  of  the  Lord — 
love,  concord,  words  of  righteousness,  truth,  patience — places 
"the  helping  widows,  looking  after  orphans."  -Shepherd, 
Comm.  viii. 

Aristides — circa  A.D.  130-40 — has  been  already  quoted. 

Clement  of  Rome — circa  A.D.  90 — gives  as  one  of  his  quota 
tions  :  "  He — the  Master  of  the  Universe — saith,  .  .  .  Give 
judgment  for  the  orphan,  and  execute  righteousness  for  the 
widows." — /  Epistle,  8. 

Lactantius — circa  last  years  of  fourth  century  —  in  his 
catalogue  of  the  different  kinds  of  benevolence  and  works  of 
mercy  which  had  especially  been  enjoined  on  Christians,  twice 
dwells  on  this  peculiar  work,  and  then  writes  :  "  Nor  is  it  less  a 
great  work  of  justice  to  protect  and  defend  orphans  and  widows 
who  are  destitute  and  stand  in  need  of  assistance,  and  there 
fore  that  Divine  Law  prescribes  this  to  all,"  etc.  .  .  .  And 
again  :  "  For  God,  to  whom  everlasting  mercy  belongs,  com 
mands  that  widows  and  orphans  should  be  defended  and 
cherished,  that  no  one  through  regard  and  pity  for  his  loved 
ones  should  be  prevented  from  suffering  death  (i.e.  martyr 
dom)  "  .  .  .  "  but  should  meet  it  with  promptitude  and  faith, 
since  he  knows  that  he  leaves  his  beloved  ones  to  the  care  of 
God,  and  that  they  will  never  want  protection."  This  last 
telling  argument  repeated  by  Lactantius  had  been,  no  doubt, 
frequently  taught  in  the  days  of  stress  and  trial. 

These  very  early  references  might  be  multiplied  ;  we  find 
this  injunction  again  and  again  repeated.  It  is  no  exaggera 
tion  to  assert  that  among  the  poor  and  sad-eyed  ones  placed 
before  the  congregations  of  believers  to  help,  the  poor  widow 
and  the  orphan  occupy  the  first  place. 

The  Sick. — The  visiting  the  sick  and  distributing  the  alms 
of  the  brethren,  public  and  private,  were  also  urged  as  an 


inescapable  duty.  This  stood  in  the  forefront  of  all  their 
exhortations,  and  the  injunction  was  ever  generously  responded 
to.  To  quote  references  here,  where  they  are  so  very  numer 
ous,  would  be  superfluous.  Lactantius'  words,  in  his  summary 
above  referred  to,  will  suffice  to  show  what  was  the  mind  of 
the  Church,  and  how  this  wish  of  the  Master's  had  been 
constantly  urged. 

Justin  Martyr  has  well  summarized  the  loved  duty — 
"  To  undertake  the  care  and  support  of  the  sick,  who  need 
some  one  to  assist  them,  is  the  part  of  the  greatest  kindness, 
and  is  of  great  beneficence ;  and  he  who  shall  do  this,  will 
both  offer  a  living  sacrifice  to  God,  and  that  which  he  has 
given  to  another  for  a  time  he  will  himself  receive  from  God 
for  eternity."-— Justin,  vi.  12. 

So  prominent  a  place  did  the  giving  of  alms  to  the  sick 
occupy  among  the  exhortations  addressed  to  the  Christians  of 
the  first  days,  that  the  injunctions  to  succour  the  sick  sufferers 
seem  not  infrequently  to  have  been  extended  beyond  the 
circle  of  the  "  Household  of  faith."  We  find  S.  Cyprian,  for 
instance,  on  the  occasion  of  the  great  plague  of  Carthage, 
A.D.  252,  telling,  in  one  of  his  addresses,  his  audience  that  to 
cherish  our  own  people  was  nothing  wonderful,  but  surely 
he  who  would  become  perfect  must  do  more  ;  he  must  love 
even  his  enemies,  as  the  Lord  admonishes  and  expects. 

"It  is  our  duty  not  to  fall  short  of  our  splendid  ancestry." 
In  the  saintly  bishop's  own  grand  untranslatable  words — 
"  Respondere  nos  decet  natalibus  nostris."  l  The  Christians 
of  Carthage,  as  their  reply,  at  once  raised  amongst  them 
selves  an  abundant  fund,  and  forming  a  company  for  the 
succour  of  the  sick,  absolutely  helped  all  without  any  inquiry 
as  to  whether  the  sick  sufferers  were  pagan  or  Christian. — 
Pontius,  Life  of  Cyprian. 

Eusebius  (H.  E.  ix.  8)  gives  a  pathetic  picture  of  the 
great  pestilence  which  raged  at  the  end  of  the  third  century, 
and  notices  the  devoted  behaviour  of  the  Christians  to  all 
the  sick  and  dying,  without  reference  to  the  sufferer's  creed. 

This  splendid  altruism  of  the   "  Godless  Galilean  "   was 

1  Archbishop  Benson  happily  paraphrases  Cyprian's  words  thus  :  Noblesse 
oblige.  S.  Cyprian,  vi.  i,  2. 


markedly  referred  to  by  the  Emperor  Julian — "  Not  only 
their  own  poor,  but  ours  do  they  care  for,"  wrote  the  great 
Emperor ;  "  our  poor  lack  our  care,"  was  his  bitter  reproach 
to  paganism. — Letter  to  Arsacius. 

Hospitality  was  another  urgent  recommendation  pressed 
home  by  the  early  Christian  teachers  to  their  flocks.  Clement 
of  Rome  (quoted  above)  in  the  first  century  dwells  on  this 
special  virtue  in  his  Letter  to  the  Corinthian  Church. 

The  Didache — circa  end  of  first  century — dwells  on  this. 
"  If  he  who  comes  is  a  traveller,  help  him  to  the  best  of  your 
ability  "  (chap.  xii.). 

Much  is  said  in  this  very  early  treatise  on  the  duty  of  caring 
for  strangers,  but  care  is  specially  enjoined  to  guard  against 
any  imposture  here. 

Her  mas  in  the  Shepherd  writes  :  "  In  hospitality,  good-doing 
finds  a  field"  (Comm.  viii.). 

Aristides,  quoted  above,  tells  us  how  Christians  "  when  they 
see  the  stranger,  bring  him  to  their  dwellings,  and  rejoice 
over  him  as  over  a  true  brother." 

Justin  Martyr  (quoted  above),  in  his  picture  of  a  Christian 
meeting  on  Sunday,  especially  directs  that  out  of  the  alms 
contributed  by  the  faithful,  among  those  who  were  to  be 
succoured  were  "  the  strangers  sojourning  amongst  us." — 
i  A pol.  Ixvii. 

Melito  of  Sardis — so  Eusebius,  H.  E.  iv.  26,  tells  us — wrote 
a  treatise  "  on  hospitality." 

Cyprian  expressly  directs  that  the  expenses  of  any  stranger 
who  may  happen  to  be  in  want,  be  paid  out  of  certain  moneys 
he  had  left  for  that  purpose. — Ep.  vii. 

Among  other  direct  references  to  this  duty  may  be  quoted 
Tertullian,  ad  Uxor.  ii.  4,  and  the  Apost.  Constit.  iii.  3  ; 
the  Emperor  Julian  in  his  Letter  to  Arsacius  wishes  the 
pagans  would  imitate  these  Christian  practices. 

This  striking  and  unique  custom,  which  no  doubt  very 
largely  contributed  to  the  feeling  of  Christian  brotherhood, 
was,  of  course,  based  upon  the  directions  so  often  repeated 
in  the  New  Testament  Epistles. 

"  Be  not  forgetful  to  entertain  strangers :  for  thereby 
some  have  entertained  angels  unawares,"  Heb.  xiii.  2.  "  Dis- 


tributing  to  the  necessity  of  saints,  given  to  hospitality," 
Rom.  xii.  13.  "  Use  hospitality  one  to  another,  without 
grudging,"  i  Pet.  iv.  9.  "  Beloved,  thou  doest  faithfully 
whatsoever  thou  doest  to  the  brethren  and  to  strangers," 
3  John  5,  etc. 

This  urgent  recommendation  to  practise  hospitality  in 
the  New  Testament  Epistles  of  Peter  and  Paul,  of  John 
and  the  writer  of  the  Epistle  to  the  Hebrews,  repeated  with 
insistence  and  earnestness  by  writers  of  the  second  and  third 
centuries,  was,  as  Justin  Martyr  tells  us  in  his  picture  of  the 
Sunday  gathering  of  Christians,  incorporated  among  the 
special  exhortations  to  the  brethren  urging  them  to  generous 

The  duty  of  "  hospitality  "  thus  pressed  home  at  these 
gatherings  as  important  enough  to  rank  with  the  claims  of  the 
widow  and  the  orphan  and  the  sick  poor,  needs  a  few  words  of 

In  the  early  days  of  Christianity  it  must  be  borne  in  mind 
that  the  widely  extended  world  of  Rome  was  not  as  in  mediaeval 
and  modern  times,  made  up  of  different  nations  and  peoples, 
but  that  the  Roman  world  was  all  one,  that  men  were  fellow- 
subjects  of  one  great  Empire,  and  that  the  passing  to  and  fro 
from  land  to  land  was  far  more  common  than  in  after  times  ; 
and  that  Christians,  whether  belonging  to  Asia  or  to  Greece, 
to  Italy  or  to  Gaul,  made  up  one  great  Brotherhood. 

For  a  Christian  coming  into  a  strange  city  to  find  there  at 
once  a  home  and  a  warm  welcome,  and  if  poor  and  needy,  help 
and  assistance,  would  constitute  a  very  powerful  inducement 
to  very  many  to  join  the  new  Society  in  which  lived  such  a 
spirit  of  loving  brotherhood  and  kindness. 

Special  means  of  intercourse  through  letters  and  messages 
and  other  means  were  provided.     Caecilius  in  Minucius  Felix 
(c.  ix.),  an  early  writing,  as  we  have  said,  belonging  to  the  middle 
of  the  second  century  or  even  earlier,  especially  tells  us  that 
"  Christians  recognize  each  other  by  means  of  secret  marks  and 
signs,  and  love  one  another  almost  before  they  are  acquainted." 
It  was  to  give  effect  to  this  far-reaching  spirit  of  brother 
hood    that    the    apostles    and    their    successors    insisted    so 
earnestly  upon  the  new  and  beautiful  duty  of  "  hospitality." 


It  was  a  practical  proof  that  all  Christians  were  really  brothers 
and  sisters—  "  that  goodness  among  the  Christians  was  not  an 
impotent  claim  or  a  pale  ideal,  but  a  power  which.was  developed 
on  all  sides,  and  was  actually  exercised  in  common  everyday 

We  have  dwelt  at  some  length  upon  what  were  the  principal 
objects  to  which  the  alms  of  the  Brotherhoood,  asked  so  earnestly 
at  the  various  weekly  assemblies,  were  devoted ;  there  were, 
however,  other  "  causes  "  pleaded  for  besides  these — no  doubt 
principally  in  such  great  centres  as  Rome,  where  a  proportion 
of  rich  and  well-to-do  persons  formed  part  of  the  little  gather 
ings  ;  of  these,  relief  and  assistance  to  "  prisoners  of  the  faith  " 
occupy  a  prominent  place. 

There  were  many  Christians,  especially  in  the  more  acute 
periods  of  persecution,  who  were  arrested  and  imprisoned  by  the 
government,  and  not  a  few  condemned  to  the  harsh  discipline 
of  the  mines.  Justin  Martyr  especially  names  assistance  to 
imprisoned  Christians  as  one  of  the  regular  objects  to  which  a 
portion  of  the  collections  at  the  "  meetings  "  was  devoted.  It 
was  ever  a  matter  of  love,  if  not  of  absolute  duty,  to  help  and 
succour  these.  "  If,"  wrote  Aristides  in  his  Apology  quoted 
above,  "  the  Christians  learn  that  any  one  of  their  number  is 
imprisoned  or  is  in  distress  for  the  sake  of  the  Name  of  Christ, 
they  should  all  render  aid  to  such  a  one  in  his  necessity." 
— Apol.  xv. 

See,  too,  among  other  references,  Heb.  x.  34;  Tert.  ad 
Mart,  i.,  and  Apol.  xxxix. 

Another  and  special  object  pi  almsgiving  pressed  upon  the 
faithful  was  help  to  other  and  perhaps  distant  Churches  who 
from  one  cause  or  other  were  in  want.  We  find  this  urged 
upon  Christian  congregations  even  in  apostolic  days. 

In  S.  Paul's  Epistles  to  the  Galatians,  Romans,  and 
Corinthians  we  find  various  appeals  to  the  generosity  of  these 
early  communities  to  assist  the  Church  at  Jerusalem.  The 
deep  poverty  of  this  famous  Church  we  have  already  suggested 
was  probably  owing  to  the  attempt  of  the  Jerusalem  Christians 
literally  to  carry  out  the  idea  of  community  of  goods. 

In  the  Letter  of  Dionysius  of  Corinth  to  the  Roman  Church 
written  circa  A.D.  170,  quoted  by  Eusebius,  H.  E.  iv.  23,  we 


find  this  generosity  referred  to  as  a  well-known  custom  of  the 
comparatively  wealthy  Roman  congregation.  "  From  the  very 
first,"  wrote  Dionysius,  "  you  have  had  this  practice  of  aiding 
all  the  brethren  in  many  ways,  and  of  sending  contributions 
to  many  Churches  in  every  city  ...  by  these  gifts  you  keep 
up  the  hereditary  custom  of  the  Roman  Christians,  a  practice 
which  your  bishop,  Soter,  has  not  only  kept  up,  but  even 
extended."  In  the  third  century,  Dionysius,  bishop  of  Alex 
andria,  writing  to  Stephen,  bishop  of  Rome,  alludes  to  the 
generous  help  given  to  the  poor  Churches  of  Syria  and  Arabia. 
"  To  them,"  he  says,  "  you  send  help  regularly." — Euseb. 
H.  E.  viii.  5. 

Ignatius,  referring  to  this  noble  generosity  of  the  Roman 
congregations  as  early  as  the  first  years  of  the  second  century, 
styles  the  Church  of  Rome  as  "  the  leader  of  love." 

Cyprian,  in  the  middle  of  the  third  century,  several  times 
mentions  how  the  Church  at  Carthage,  evidently  a  wealthy 
community,  was  in  the  habit  of  sending  help  to  other  and 
needy  communities. 

But  there  was  one  department  in  the  novel  teaching  pressed 
home  by  the  early  Christian  teachers  which  seems  at  once  to 
have  riveted  the  attention  of  the  listeners,  and  its  universal 
acceptance  at  once  won  extraordinary,  possibly  an  undreamed 
of  popularity  in  the  Christian  ranks.  It  was  an  entirely  new 
departure  from  any  custom  prevalent  in  the  world  of  Rome— 
the  injunction  reverently  to  care  for  the  bodies  of  the  dead 

The  Emperor  Julian  in  his  summary  of  what  he  considered 
the  chief  points  in  the  hated  Christian  system  which  had  won 
them  so  many  hearts,  especially  calls  attention  to  this.  He 
wrote  this  remarkable  comment  here  : 

"  This  godlessness  (i.e.  Christianity)  is  mainly  furthered 
by  its  charity  towards  strangers,  and  its  careful  attention  to  the 
bestowal  of  the  dead." — Letter  to  Arsacius,  in  Soz.  v.  15. 

Lactantius  in  his  review  of  the  Christian  virtues  urged 
by  the  great  teachers  of  the  new  religion,  and  to  a  great  extent 
practised  in  the  early  centuries,  gives  a  prominent  and  detailed 
notice  of  this  pious  and  loving  custom,  and  strikingly  writes 
as  follows  :  "  The  last  and  greatest  office  of  piety  is  the  burying 


of  strangers  and  the  poor,"  adding  that  the  noblest  pagan 
teachers  of  virtue  and  justice  had  never  touched  at  all  upon 
this  inescapable  duty.  These  had  left  this,  he  adds,  quite 
out,  because  they  were  unable  to  see  any  advantage  in  it. 

Some  of  these  pagan  teachers,  he  goes  on  to  say,  even 
esteemed  burial  as  superfluous,  adding  that  it  was  no  evil  to 
lie  unburied  and  neglected. 

The  great  fourth  century  writer  proceeds  at  some  length 
to  give  some  of  the  reasons  which  had  influenced  Christians 
so  tenderly  to  care  for  their  brethren  who  had  fallen  asleep  : 
"  We  will  not  surfer  the  image  and  workmanship  of  God  to 
lie  exposed  as  a  prey  to  beasts  and  birds,  but  we  will  restore 
it  to  earth  from  which  it  was  taken  ;  and  although  it  be  in  the 
case  of  an  unknown  person,  we  will  supply  the  place  of  relatives, 
whose  place,  since  they  are  wanting,  let  benevolence  take." — 
Lactantius,  Inst.  vi.  12. 

Aristides — middle  years   of   second  century — thus   dwells 

upon  the  tender  solicitude  of  the  Christian  folk  for  their  dead  : 

'  When  one  of  their  poor  passes  away  from  the  world,  one  of 

them  (the  brethren)  looks  after  him,  and  sees  to  his  burial 

according  to  his  means." — Apol.  xv. 

Aristides  is  here  referring  to  the  private  charity  of  individ 
ual  members  of  the  community,  which  was  often  very  lavish 
in  the  early  centuries.  Tertullian,  on  the  other  hand,  writing 
on  the  same  duty  of  caring  for  the  brethren,  includes  the  cost 
of  "  burying  the  poor  "  as  coming  out  of  the  common  fund 
made  up  of  the  money  contributed  at  the  public  meetings  of 
the  Brotherhood. — Apol.  xxxix. 

As  the  amount  required  for  these  burials  and  the  subse 
quent  care  bestowed  on  the  places  of  Christian  sepulture  was 
very  considerable,  the  public  collections  made  in  the  assemblies 
were  necessarily  often  largely  supplemented  by  private  alms. 

All  this  loving  care  for  the  remains  of  the  deceased  went 
home  to  numberless  hearts  among  the  survivors  of  the  loved, 
and  evidently  ranked  high  among  the  reasons  which  attracted 
many  into  the  ranks  of  the  Christian  Brotherhood. 

In  our  little  picture  of  very  early  Christian  life,  Rome  and 
its  powerful  Church  has  been  generally  selected  as  the  scene  of 
the  life  in  question.  In  this  primitive  custom  of  reverent  care 


for  the  dead, — a  care  which  embraced  the  very  poor  as  well 
as  the  rich  and  well-to-do,  we  discern  the  reasons  which  led 
to  the  first  beginnings  of  the  vast  city  of  the  Christian  dead,— 
the  wonderful  city  known  as  the  Roman  catacombs.  This 
will  be  carefully  described  at  some  length  in  this  work  :  the 
building  and  excavating  of  the  endless  corridors,  the  private 
chambers,  the  chapels  and  meeting-rooms,  began  even  before 
the  close  of  the  first  century  of  the  Christian  era,  and  went  on 
for  some  two  centuries  and  a  half — the  long-drawn-out  age 
of  persecution. 

They  constitute  a  mighty  and  ever-present  proof  of  the 
accuracy  of  much  that  has  been  advanced  in  the  foregoing  pages 
on  the  subject  of  the  life  led — of  the  hopes  and  ideals 
cherished  among  the  disciples  of  Jesus  in  that  first  stage  of 
anxious  trial  and  sore  danger. 

The  pictures  painted  below  in  the  chapters  treating  of 
the  catacombs  of  Rome  are  admirable  contemporary  illustra 
tions  of  what  the  writings  of  Aristides,  Tertullian,  and  Lac- 
tantius  tell  us  of  the  solemn  duty  to  the  dead  which  was  insisted 
upon  with  such  touching  eloquence  to  the  primitive  congrega 
tions  of  the  faithful. 


THERE  was  ever  present  in  these  early  assemblies  of 
Christians  one  class  of  persons  who  had  no  rank,  no 
place  in  Roman  society, — a  class  in  which  Cicero  had 
declared  that  nothing  great  or  noble  could  exist.  Slavery 
has  been  well  characterized  as  the  "  most  frightful  feature  of 
the  corruption  of  ancient  Rome,  and  it  extended  through 
every  class  of  the  community."  Economically,  "  the  poor 
citizen  found  almost  all  the  spheres  in  which  an  honourable 
livelihood  might  be  obtained,  wholly  or  at  least  in  a  very 
great  part  preoccupied  by  slaves."  Morally,  "  the  slave 
population  was  a  hotbed  of  vice,  and  it  contaminated  all 
with  which  it  came  in  contact."  l 

Now  what  position  did  the  slave  occupy  in  early  Christian 
society  ?  It  is  quite  clear  that  the  primitive  Christians  had 
no  idea  of  abolishing  slavery.  It  was  part  of  the  ancient 
society,  and  they  accepted  it  even  amongst  themselves — 
apparently  made  no  effort  to  abolish  it ;  but  the  view  they  took 
of  it  in  reality  dealt  a  death-blow  to  the  unhappy  and'miserable 
institution.  It  is  true  that  whilst  Christianity  gradually 
modified  its  most  painful  and  objectionable  features  by  example 
and  by  precept,  it  was  only  after  long,  long  years  that  it  suc 
ceeded  by  a  bloodless  revolution  to  wipe  away  the  awful  curse 
— "  The  mills  of  God  grind  slowly." 

But  the  New  Testament  simply  directs  slaves  to  be  faithful 
and  obedient.  In  the  letter  to  Philemon,  Paul  never  even  hints 
at  the  release  of  the  slave  Onesimus,  who  was  very  dear  to  him. 
In  i  Cor.  vii.  20,  Paul  urges  every  man  to  abide  in  the 
calling  (i.e.  the  state  of  life  or  condition)  in  which  he  was  when 
he  was  called  to  God  ;  and  even  advises  the  slave  to  be  content 

1  Lecky,  European  Morals,  chap,  ii.,  "  The  Pagan  Empire." 



to  remain  a  slave  even  if  the  opportunity  to  become  free 
presents  itself ;  for  this  is  the  interpretation  which  a  chain  of 
the  best  commentators  gives  to  the  words  "  use  it  rather." 
See,  too,  Eph.  vi.  5-9  ;  Tit.  ii.  9  ;  i  Pet.  ii.  i8.1 

The  earliest  Christian  writings  take  the  same  view  of  the 
question  of  slavery  as  we  find  in  the  Epistles  of  Paul  and  Peter. 
So  in  the  Didache  we  read  :  "  Thou  shalt  not  give  directions 
when  thou  art  in  anger  to  thy  slave  or  thy  handmaid,  who 
trust  in  the  same  God,  lest  perchance  they  shall  not  fear  the 
Lord  who  is  over  you  both  ;  for  He  cometh  not  to  call  men 
according  to  their  outward  position,  but  He  cometh  to  those 
whom  the  Spirit  hath  made  ready.  And  ye  slaves,  ye  shall 
be  subject  to  your  masters  as  to  God's  image,  in  modesty 
and  fear "  (chap.  iv.). 

Aristides  writes  as  follows  :  "  But  as  for  their  servants 
or  handmaids,  or  their  children  if  any  of  them  have  any, 
they  (the  Christians)  persuade  them  to  become  Christians, 
for  the  love  that  they  have  towards  them  ;  and  when  they 
have  become  so,  they  call  them  without  distinction  Brethren." 
— ApoL,  chap.  xv. 

But  although  slavery  as  an  institution  2  was  left  for  the 
time  virtually  untouched,  Christianity  in  its  own  circles 
worked  an  immediate  and  vast  change  in  the  condition  of 
the  slave  :  "It  supplied  a  new  order  of  relations,  in  which 
the  relations  of  classes  were  unknown,  and  it  imparted  a  new 
dignity  to  the  servile  classes." 

In  the  assemblies  of  the  Christians  of  the  first  days  on 
which  we  have  been  dwelling,  the  social  difference  between 

1  Slavery  was  not  authoritatively  condemned  until  the  year  of  grace  1807. 
Lecky  characterizes  the  action  of  Christian  England  here  in  the  following 
eloquent  words:   "  The  unwearied,  unostentatious,  and  inglorious  crusade  of 
England  against  slavery  may  probably  be  regarded  as  among  the   three  or 
four  perfectly  virtuous  acts  recorded  in  the  history  of  nations  "  (History  of 
Morals,  chap.  i.).      And  even  after  1807  it  lived  on  an  acknowledged  and 
recognized  institute  of  several  countries.     The  terrible  war  which  led  to  the 
slave  abolition  in  the  United  States  is  still  unforgotten  even  by  this  generation. 

2  Ozanam  estimates  the  numbers  of  slaves  in  the  first  and  second  centuries 
of  our  era  as  amounting  to  half  the  population  of  the  Empire.     The  estimate 
is  no  doubt  exaggerated,  but  the  numbers  of  the  slave  population  in  that 
period  were  undoubtedly  very  great. 

3  Lecky,  History  of  European  Morals,  vol.  ii.  chap.  iv. 


master  and  slave  was  quite  unknown.  They  knelt  side  by 
side  when  they  received  the  Holy  Eucharist.  They  sat  side 
by  side  as  the  instructions  were  given  and  the  words  of  the 
Lord  Jesus  were  expounded.  Their  prayers  ascended  to 
gether  to  the  mercy-seat  of  the  Eternal.  While  not  unfre- 
quently  a  slave  was  promoted  to  be  the  teacher ;  the  highest 
offices  in  the  congregation l  were  now  and  again  filled  by 
chosen  members  of  the  slave  class.  They  suffered  with  their 
masters,  and  shared  with  them  the  glory  of  martyrdom. 

The  Acts  of  the  Martyred  Slaves  were  read  to  the  con- 
gegations  of  the  faithful,  and  the  highest  honour  and  vener 
ation  was  paid  to  their  memory.  The  slaves  Blandina  of 
Lyons,  Felicitas  of  Carthage,  Emerentiana  of  Rome  the 
foster-sister  of  Agnes,  the  famous  martyr  —  are  names 
which  deservedly  rank  high  in  the  histories  of  the  early 
heroines  of  the  Church. 

But  although  slavery  was  still  recognized  in  the  new  Society 
which  outwardly  made  no  abrupt  changes,  which  desired 
no  sudden  and  violent  uprooting  in  the  old  Society,  a  mar 
vellous  change  passed  over  the  ordinary  conception  of  the 

An  extract  from  a  letter  of  Paulinus  of  Nola  to  Sulpicius 
Severus,  the  disciple  and  biographer  of  S.  Martin  of  Tours 
(circa  the  last  years  of  the  fourth  century),  will  give  some  idea 
of  the  regard  so  largely  entertained  by  Christian  thinkers  for 
the  slave  members  of  the  community.  Thanking  Sulpicius 
for  a  young  slave  he  had  sent  him,  Paulinus  of  Nola>  recog 
nizing  in  the  slave  an  earnest  and  devout  soul,  writes  to  his 
friend  as  follows  :  "  He  has  served  me,  and  woe  is  me  that 
I  have  allowed  him  to  be  my  servant — that  he  who  was  no 
servant  of  sin,  should  yet  be  in  the  service  of  a  sinner  !  Un 
worthy  that  I  am,  every  day  I  suffered  him  to  wash  my  feet ; 
and  there  was  no  menial  duty  he  would  not  have  performed 
had  I  allowed  him,  so  unsparing  was  he  of  his  body — so  watch- 

1  Hennas,  the  author  of  the  famous  Shepherd,  belonged  to  the  slave  class. 
The  Roman  Bishop  Pius,  A.D.  142-157,  was  the  brother  of  Hennas.  The 
celebrated  Bishop  of  Rome,  Callistus,  A.D.  218-222,  had  been  a  slave. 

"  The  first  and  grandest  edifice  of  Byzantine  architecture  in  Italy — the 
Church  of  S.  Vitale  at  Ravenna — was  dedicated  by  Justinian  to  the  memory  of 
a  martyred  slave." — Lecky,  History  of  European  M orals,  vol.  ii.  chap.  iv. 


ful  for  his  soul.  Ah,  it  is  Jesus  Christ  that  I  venerate  in  this 
young  man  ;  for  surely  every  faithful  soul  proceeds  from 
God,  and  every  humble  man  of  heart  comes  from  the  very 
heart  of  Christ/'1 

There  is  little  doubt  but  that  this  authoritative  teaching 
of  the  Christian  masters  in  the  matter  of  the  perfect  equality 
of  the  slave  in  the  eyes  of  God,  and  the  consequent  tender 
and  often  loving  treatment  meted  out  to  the  Christian  members 
of  the  despised  and  downtrodden  class,  gravely  misliked  the 
more  thoughtful  among  the  pagan  aristocracy  of  Rome,  and 
that  this  teaching  and  practice  of  Christians  in  the  case  of 
the  vast  slave  class  in  the  pagan  Empire  ranked  high  among 
the  dangers  which  they  felt  threatened  the  existence  of  the 
old  state  of  things.  Grave  considerations  of  this  kind  must 
have  strongly  influenced  the  minds  of  men  like  Pius  and 
Marcus  and  their  entourage,  before  they  determined  to  carry 
out  their  bitter  policy  of  persecution. 

The  Romans  of  the  old  school  could  have  well  afforded 
to  regard  with  comparative  indifference  the  enfranchise 
ment  of  any  number  of  Christian  slaves.  Freedmen,  especi 
ally  in  the  imperial  household,  were  very  numerous  in  the 
days  of  the  Antonines.  But  the  teaching  that  these  slaves — 
while  still  slaves — were  their  brethren,  and  ought  to  be  treated 
with  love  and  esteem,  was  a  new  and  disturbing  thought  in  the 
Empire  of  the  great  Antonines. 

Lecky,  in  his  History  of  European  Morals  (chap,  iv.), 
has  a  fine  passage  in  which  he  sums  up  the  great  features  of 
the  new  movement  of  Christian  charity,  and  its  results  on 
the  world  at  large.  It  runs  as  follows  : 

'  There  is  no  fact  of  which  an  historian  becomes  more 
steadily  or  more  painfully  conscious  than  the  great  difference 
between  the  importance  and  the  dramatic  interest  of  the  sub 
jects  he  treats.  Wars  or  massacres,  the  horrors  of  martyrdom 
or  the  splendour  of  individual  prowess,  are  susceptible  of  such 
brilliant  colouring  that  with  but  very  little  literary  skill  they 
can  be  so  portrayed  that  their  importance  is  adequately  real 
ized,  and  that  they  appeal  powerfully  to  the  emotions  of  the 

1  S.  Paulinus  of  Nola  to  Sulpicius  Severus,  Ep.  xxiii. 


reader.  But  this  vast  and  unostentatious  movement  of 
charity,  operating  in  the  village  hamlets  and  in  the  lonely 
hospital,  staunching  the  widow's  tears  and  following  all  the 
windings  of  the  poor  man's  griefs,  presents  few  features  the 
imagination  can  grasp,  and  leaves  no  deep  impression  upon 
the  mind.  The  greatest  things  are  those  which  are  most  im 
perfectly  realized  ;  and  surely  no  achievements  of  the  Christian 
Church  are  more  truly  great  than  those  which  it  has  effected 
in  the  sphere  of  charity.  For  the  first  time  in  the  history 
of  the  world  it  has  inspired  many  thousands  of  men  and 
women,  at  the  sacrifice  of  all  worldly  interests,  and  often 
under  circumstances  of  extreme  discomfort  or  danger,  to 
devote  their  entire  lives  to  the  single  object  of  assuaging  the 
sufferings  of  humanity.  It  has  covered  the  globe  with  count 
less  institutions  of  mercy,  absolutely  unknown  to  the  whole 
pagan  world.  It  has  indissolubly  united  in  the  minds  of 
men  the  idea  of  supreme  goodness  with  that  of  active  and 
constant  benevolence." 

The  foundation  stories  of  all  this  vast  movement  of  charity 
and  altruistic  love  were  laid  in  the  early  years  of  Christianity. 

The  assemblies — the  meetings  together  of  the  Christians 
of  the  first  days — constructed  and  developed,  as  we  have  seen, 
the  laws  of  charity ;  indicating  the  persons  who  were  to  be 
assisted,  suggesting,  too,  the  means  and  resources  out  of  which 
the  sufferers — the  forlorn  and  needy — might  be  helped  and 
comforted  in  life  and  in  death. 

All  that  happened  subsequently — the  mighty  organizing 
work  of  great  masters  of  charity,  such  as  Basil  of  Cappadocian 
Caesarea,  and  later  of  members  of  the  monastic  orders — was 
simply  the  development,  the  expansion,  the  application  to 
individual  needs  of  the  primitive  ordinances  of  the  first  days 
which  we  have  been  sketching  out, — ordinances  all  founded 
upon  the  advice,  the  injunctions,  the  commands  which  we 
find  in  early  Christian  writings  such  as  the  Didache,  the 
ist  Epistle  of  Clement  of  Rome,  the  Apology  of  Aristides, 
the  Shepherd  of  Hermas,  the  writings  of  Justin  Martyr 
and  Minucius  Felix,  and  a  very  little  later  in  the  more 
elaborate  works  of  Irenaeus,  Clement  of  Alexandria,  and 
Tertullian,  and  repeated  in  the  first  half  of  the  third  century 


by  eminent  teachers  such  as  Origen  and  Cyprian  of  Carthage  ; 
all  primarily  based  more  or  less  exactly  upon  the  words  of 
the  Lord  Jesus  and  of  His  own  immediate  disciples. 

In  the  primitive  assemblies  of  the  Christian  Brotherhood 
these  things  formed  the  groundwork  of  the  instructions  and 
exhortations  of  the  teachers  and  preachers,  and  were  united 
with  the  dogma  of  the  Atonement,  with  the  tidings  of  im 
mortality,  the  promises  of  bliss  and  eternal  peace  in  the 
life  beyond  the  grave. 

Entering  into  one  of  these  early  assemblies  held  in  an  upper 
chamber  or  courtyard  of  a  wealthy  Christian  brother,  or  in 
one  of  those  dark  and  gloomy  chambers  of  the  catacombs, 
"  we  step,"  as  it  has  been  well  said,  "  into  a  whole  world  of 
sympathy  and  of  love." 



BUT  the  rapt  moments  enjoyed  by  the  men  and  women  who 
met  together  in  these  primitive  assemblies  soon  passed. 
The  perfect  realization  of  brotherhood,  the  sharing  in 
the  mystic  Eucharist,  the  fervent  prayers,  the  dwelling  on  the 
sunlit  words  of  their  Divine  Master,  the  earnest  and  pressing 
injunctions  to  be  generous  in  charity  and  almsgiving  for 
the  benefit  of  the  forlorn  and  sick  in  their  company,  the 
feeling  that  the  unseen  presence  of  the  Lord  was  all  the  while 
in  their  midst, — all  these  things  contributed  to  the  joy  and 
gladness  which  permeated  each  little  assembly  ;  every  one 
who  assisted  at  one  of  these  meetings  could  whisper  in  his 
or  her  heart  the  words  of  the  "  apostle  "  on  the  Mount  of 
Transfiguration—  "  Lord,  it  is  good  for  us  to  be  here." 

But  when  the  gathering  dispersed,  a  reaction  must  have 
quickly  set  in.  From  that  atmosphere  of  sympathy,  of  love 
and  hope,  they  passed  at  once  into  the  cold,  hard,  busy  world 
—into  family  life — into  the  workshop,  the  study,  the  barrack, 
and  the  Forum — all  coloured  with — permeated  by  that 
system  of  gross  and  actual  idolatry  which  entered  into  every 
home,  every  trade  and  profession  of  the  Roman  Empire. 
What  was  to  be  their  conduct  ?  how  were  Christians  to  behave  in 
a  world  wholly  given  up  to  an  idolatry  they  knew  was  false,  and 
utterly  hateful  to  the  Lord  whose  presence  they  had  just  left  ? 

The  difficulties  of  a  believer's  life  in  the  early  Christian 
centuries  must  have  been  terrible ;  and  it  must  be  borne  in 
mind  that  these  difficulties  were  not  occasional,  but  of  daily, 
almost  of  hourly  occurrence.  To  enumerate  a  few  : 

I.  In  the  family,  in  domestic  life.  Consider  the  position  of 
a  Christian  slave — of  a  son  or  daughter — of  a  wife — in  a  pagan 



family.  What  scenes  of  strain  and  estrangement  if  one  member 
was  a  Christian  and  the  household  generally  clung  to  the  old 
Roman  religion  !  The  son  or  daughter  might  wish  to  be  Christ's 
disciple,  and  yet  shrink  from  "  hating  father  and  mother, 
brothers  and  sisters."  What  constant  contests  would  the 
Christian  have  to  endure — what  bitter  reproaches — what 
perpetual  danger  of  giving  way  and  so  endangering  the  immortal 
soul !  What  share  could  the  Christian  member  of  a  pagan 
family  take  in  the  ordinary  business  and  pleasures  of  the  every 
day  existence,  to  say  nothing  of  the  extreme  peril  to  which  a 
member  of  the  sect  would  be  constantly  subject  of  being 
denounced  as  a  Christian  to  the  authorities,  who  were  often 
too  ready  to  listen  to  the  informer  ? 

2.  In     Trade.  —  Many     commercial     occupations     were 
more   or   less   closely   connected   with    idol-worship ;    to   say 
nothing    of    the   makers   and    decorators    of    idol-images,    a 
trade  that  manifestly  was  impossible  for  a  Christian   to  be 
occupied   in,   there  were  hosts  of  artisans  employed  in  the 
great  arenas  where  the  public  games  were  held  ;   then,  too, 
there  were  the  actors — the  gladiators — those  engaged  in  the 
schools  and  training-homes  of  these.     What  were  such  persons 
to  do? 

3.  In  the  ordinary  pleasures  of  the  people  in  which  such 
multitudes   took  the  keenest  delight,  was  the  Christian  to 
stand  aloof  from  all  these  ?     Was  the  Christian  to  attract  a 
painful  and  dangerous  notoriety  by  refusing  to  share  in  such 
dearly  loved  amusements,  which  with  rare  exceptions  were 
positively  hateful  to  every  Christian's  conscience  ? 

4.  Was  the  civil  servant  or  the  lawyer  to  abandon  his  calling 
in  which  the  worship  of  and  reverence  for  the  gods  of  Rome 
played  so  prominent  a  part  ?     Was  the  soldier,  or  still  more 
the  officer  of  the  Legions,  to  abandon  his  post  and  desert  his 
colours,  rather  than  acquiesce  in  the  daily  service  and  adoration 
of  the  gods  of  Rome.     Was  he  to  refuse  to  pay  the  customary 
homage  to  the  awful  Caesar,  when  the  slightest  disrespect  or 
failure  in  homage  to  this  sovereign  master,  who  claimed  the 
rank  of    Deity,  would    be  construed  into  treason  and   dis 
loyalty  ? 

5.  Education. — Could  a   Christian  still  continue   to  be  a 


teacher  of  the  young,  seeing  that  in  all  the  manuals  of  educa 
tion  a  knowledge  of  the  old  gods  still  worshipped  in  Rome — 
their  myths,  their  prowess,  their  various  attributes — was 
carefully  taught  ?  The  very  festivals  and  sacred  days  had  to 
be  carefully  observed  by  them,  since  it  was  by  means  of  these 
the  teachers'  fees  were  reckoned. 

All  such  and  many  other  like  questions  had  to  be  considered 
and  weighed  by  the  Christian  converts  living  in  the  world  of 
Rome.  Very  thorny  and  rough  was  the  path  which  had  to 
be  travelled  by  every  earnest  Christian  in  his  way  through 

A  striking  and  eloquent  apologia  for  or  explanation  of  the 
reasons  which  guided  many  of  the  early  Christian  teachers  to 
advocate  a  certain  feeling  of  toleration  in  various  circumstances 
of  everyday  life  may  be  quoted  here  : 

"  The  (Roman)  Empire  was  originally  developed  quite 
apart  from  Christianity  under  the  shadow  of  the  worship  of 
the  old  false  gods.  Everything  in  it  bore  the  stamp  of  idolatry. 
Its  laws  and  its  customs,  first  framed  by  patricians  who  were 
at  once  priests  and  lawgivers,  then  consolidated  by  Emperors 
who  ranked  first  and  foremost  as  sovereign  pontiffs  of  the 
idol- worship,  everything  was  coloured  with  and  permeated 
by  polytheism.  Art — Letters — private  customs — all  were 
pagan.  There  was  no  public  monument  but  was  placed  under 
the  guardianship  of  some  heathen  deity.  No  poem  was 
composed  without  special  reference  to  an  idol  god  ;  no  feast 
began  without  a  libation  to  an  idol ;  no  household  omitted 
the  inescapable  duty  which  directed  that  a  sacred  fire  should 
burn  before  the  household  gods  (Lares).  Thus  absolutely 
independent  of  Christianity,  such  a  civilization  must  needs  be 
intensely  hostile  to  the  new  faith,  and  its  hostility  never 
faltered  one  instant.  Differing  here  from  the  fixed  rule  of 
universal  toleration,  Roman  society  from  the  very  first  dis 
played  towards  Christianity  the  bitterest  contempt — insulting 
treatment — persecution.  The  religion  of  Jesus  grew  up  and 
spread  under  circumstances  of  general  ignominy  and  hatred 
.  .  .  living  in  such  a  highly  civilized  community — mighty 
and  indeed  all-powerful — the  Church  of  Christ  destroyed 


nothing,  adopted  everything,  quietly  correcting,  gently  chang 
ing  and  reforming  everything,  graving  the  Cross  of  its  Founder 
on  all  the  institutions  of  pagan  Rome  ;  breathing  its  inspiration 
by  degrees  into  all  its  laws  and  customs."  l 

*De  Broglie,  Revue  des  deux  mondes,  ist  Nov.  1852,  reproduced  in  his 
L'Eglise  et  V Empire  Romain,  vol.  i.,  Avertissement,  ii-iii. 



THE  members  of  the  Christian  Brotherhood  were  not  left 
without  guidance  as  to  their  behaviour  in  the  world 
of  Rome.  There  were  two  schools  among  the  Christian 
teachers  of  authority  in  the  primitive  Church. 

The  one  which  we  will  term  the  school  of  "  Rigourists  " 
or  "  ascetics  "  found  a  brilliant  and  able  exponent  in  the  stern 
African  Father,  Tertullian,  who  taught  and  wrote  in  the  latter 
years  of  the  second  and  the  earlier  years  of  the  third  centuries. 
From  the  burning  and  impassioned  words  of  this  famous 
African  teacher  we  can  form  a  generally  accurate  idea  of  what 
was  taught  and  pressed  home  in  the  school  of  "  Rigourists." 

No  compromise  was  ever  suggested  by  these  hard,  stern 
teachers — no  "  via  media  "  was  even  hinted  at. 

The  artisan  must  forsake  his  calling  if  it  even  was  connected 
in  the  most  remote  degree  with  idol  worship,1  with  the  games 
loved  of  the  people,  with  anything  which  appeared  antagon 
istic  to  any  of  the  Master's  commands.  These  words  must  be 
understood  in  their  strict  literal  sense,  and  must  be  obeyed. 

The  soldier  must  abandon  his  colours,  the  civil  servant 
his  profession.  The  slave  must  at  all  risks  refuse  his  obedi 
ence  when  that  obedience  involved  acquiescence  in  any  form 
of  idolatry.  The  Christian  wife,  the  son  or  daughter  in  a 
pagan  family,  must  gently  but  firmly  decline  to  share  even 
in  the  formal  ancestral  worship,  or  to  be  present  at  the  public 
games  of  the  arena,  or  the  performances  in  the  theatre.  In 
their  dress  and  ornaments,  in  their  very  language,  in  their 
hours  of  play  and  work,  they  must  hold  themselves  aloof. 

1  See,  for  instance,  Tert.  De  Idolat.  viii.,  where  the  various  trades  connected 
with  idols  and  temples  are  enumerated. 


We  may  picture  to  cursives  how  in  many  a  pagan  household, 
in  the  Forum,  in  the  army  and  civil  service,  gentle,  pitying 
men  and  women  would  be  found  who  would  shield  and  shelter 
these  seemingly  fanatical  and  earnest  adherents  of  a  despised 
religion ;  but  in  many  cases  there  would  be  no  loving,  pitying 
ones  who  would  strive  to  throw  a  kindly  veil  over  what  seemed 
to  them  such  strange,  such  unpatriotic  and  even  disloyal 
conduct.  Then  would  assuredly  follow  arrest — imprisonment 
— exile — the  deadly  mines,  where  the  condemned  toiled  in 
a  hopeless,  dreary  captivity.  Not  unfrequently  torture  and 
death  would  be  the  guerdon  of  the  devoted  Christian  under 
circumstances  of  awful  pain  and  mortal  agony. 

It  is  out  of  this  class  that  the  martyrs  mostly  came.  It 
was  to  embolden  and  encourage  these  that  the  little  known 
"Schools  of  Martyrdom"  were  formed,  where  very  earnest  Chris 
tians  were  trained  to  endure  all  and  suffer  for  the  Name's  sake.1 

The  ascetics,  however,  were  in  the  minority.  There  was 
another  school  in  the  primitive  Church,  strict  certainly  in  its 
instructions,  but  more  ready  to  make  allowances  ;  less  un 
compromising  in  its  views  of  the  everyday  Christian  life  ; 
less  literal  in  its  interpretation  of  the  Divine  Master's  words. 

This  gentler  and  more  practical  school  is  well  represented 
in  the  works  still  preserved  to  us  of  several  of  the  great  teachers 
of  early  Christianity.  A  very  conspicuous  example  of  this 
school  of  teaching  is  the  famous  Dialogue  put  together  by 
the  North  African  Latin  writer,  Minucius  Felix.  The  gener 
ally  received  date  of  the  writing  is  circa  A.D.  160,  in  the  reign 
of  the  Emperor  Marcus  Antoninus.  It  is  a  work  of  peculiar 
charm.  One  scholar  terms  it  "a  golden  Book  "  ;  another 
(Renan)  styles  it  "  the  pearl  of  Apologetic  literature." 

It  is  cast  in  the  form  of  a  dialogue  held  by  three  persons 
on  the  then  beautiful  seashore  of  Ostia.  The  speakers  are  real 
historic  characters  of  some  rank  and  position  in  the  Roman 
world  in  the  middle  years  of  the  second  century.  The  argu 
ments  adduced  by  the  pagan  Caccilius  are  supposed  to  be  a 
reproduction  of  a  lost  work  of  Fronto,  the  tutor  and  friend 
of  the  Emperor  Marcus.  The  refutation  of  Octavius  the 
wealthy  Christian  merchant,  which  follows  and  which  con- 

1  On  these  "  Schools  of  Martyrdom,"  see  below,  p.  198  foil. 


vinced  Caecilius  of  the  truth  of  the  new  faith,  is  the  principal 
piece  in  the  work  and  the  part  to  which  reference  is  specially 
made  here,  and  it  admirably  voices  many  of  the  views  of 
the  second  and  gentler  school  of  early  Christianity.  The 
criticism  of  Renan  on  the  view  of  Christianity  taken  by 
Octavius  is  striking,  and  fairly  accurate.  It  is,  he  says,  "  the 
conception  of  the  new  religion  of  amiable  advocates  wishful 
to  enrol  in  the  Christian  ranks,  men  of  culture  and  position. 
Such  men  as  the  Octavius  of  the  Dialogue  would  never  have 
written  the  Gospels  or  the  Apocalypse  ;  but,  on  the  other 
hand,  without  such  liberal  interpreters,  the  Gospels,  the  Apoc 
alypse,  and  the  Epistles  of  Paul  would  have  never  penetrated 
beyond  the  circle  of  a  narrow  sect,  and  in  the  long  run  the 
sect  of  Christians  would  have  disappeared."  "  Minucius 
Felix,"  the  great  French  writer,  goes  on  to  say,  "  repre 
sented  in  those  early  years  the  preacher  of  Notre  Dame  (in 
Paris)  in  our  own  time,  addressing  men  of  the  world."  l 

Christianity,  in  the  eloquent  presentment  of  Octavius,  by 
no  means  requires  the  believer  to  put  aside  the  philosophers 
and  pagan  writers  whose  works  he  admired.  In  the  argument 
of  Octavius,  Christian  teaching  lives  in  the  pages  of  Aristotle 
and  Plato.  He  points  out  with  rare  skill  and  ingenuity  that 
the  new  religion  makes  no  claim  on  men  to  give  up  their  callings 
and  professions  ;  for  instance,  advocates  like  Minucius,  the 
author  of  "  the  Dialogue,"  never  dream,  save  in  times  of  vaca 
tion,  of  leaving  the  Forum  the  scene  of  their  life-work.  Chris 
tians,  like  other  men,  busy  themselves  with  the  same  occupa 
tions  ;  so  society  may  surely  accept  them  without  any  scruples. 
The  cultivation  of  Art — the  study  of  Letters — are  by  no  means 
incompatible  with  the  profession  of  Christianity.  The  religion 
of  Jesus  uses  all  these  things,  and  using  them  sanctifies  them. 

Eminent  teachers,  such  as  Clement  of  Alexandria  at 
the  close  of  the  second  century  in  his  Pcedagogus,  give 
directions  to  believers  to  enable  them  to  live  a  Christian  life 
in  the  world.  Origen,  in  many  respects  a  "  Rigourist,"  is 
far  from  emulating  Tertullian  in  his  stern  denunciations  and 
warnings  ;  and  even  such  men  as  the  saintly  Cyprian,  who 
closed  his  beautiful  life  by  a  voluntary  martyrdom,  shows 

1  See  Renan,  Marc-Aur&le,  chap.  xxii. 


by  his  own  example  that  there  were  even  times  and  seasons 
when  a  Christian  by  flight  might  rightly  avoid  arrest  and 
suffering  for  the  Name's  sake. 

In  this  gentler,  more  acommodating  school  it  was  clear  that 
heathen  art  was  not  forbidden.  The  decoration  of  even  the 
earlier  sepulchral  chambers  in  the  Roman  catacombs  plainly 
indicates  this  freedom. 

That  this  policy  of  the  gentler  school  of  early  teaching, 
which  countenanced,  perhaps  suggested,  many  allowances, 
especially  in  matters  of  purely  ceremonial  idolatry,  was  adopted 
by  the  majority  of  believers,  is  clear  from  the  numbers  of 
Christians  who  we  know  lived  in  the  imperial  court,  served  in 
the  army,  and  occupied  positions  in  the  civil  service. 

For  instance,  in  the  imperial  court,  in  the  days  of  S.  Paul, 
we  meet  with  salutations  from  Christians  in  Caesar's  household 
(Phil.  iv.  22). 

The  well-known  "graffito"  on  the  Palatine,  of  the  cari 
cature  of  a  crucifix,  is  an  indication  that  there  were  Christians 
among  the  imperial  pages  in  the  reign  of  Marcus,1  A.D.  161-80. 

Irenaeus  (iv.  30)  in  the  last  quarter  of  the  second  century 
expressly  writes  as  follows  :  "  And  what  of  those  who  in  the 
royal  palace  are  believers  ? 

Marcia,  the  favourite  of  Commodus,  if  not  a  Christian, 
was  more  than  kind  to  the  Christian  sect ;  that  many  Chris 
tians  were  in  her  circle  is  certain.  Even  Tertullian  testifies 
(Apol.  xxxvi.)  to  the  fact  that  there  were  Christians  in  the 
palace  of  the  Emperor  Septimius  Severus,  A.D.  193-212. 

In  the  court  of  Alexander  Severus  (A.D.  222-35)  were 
many  Christians  ;  and  it  has  been  supposed,  not  without  some 
reason,  that  the  Emperor  himself  was  secretly  a  believer. 

Dionysius,  bishop  of  Alexandria  (quoted  in  Euseb.  H.  E. 
vii.  10),  writing  of  the  favourable  disposition  of  the  Emperor 
Valerian  towards  Christians  in  the  earlier  part  of  his  reign, 
A.D.  253,  says  :  "  All  his  house  (court)  was  filled  with  pious 
persons  ;  it  was  indeed  a  congregation  of  the  Lord." 

In  the  first  part  of  Diocletian's  reign,  A.D.  284-96,  the 
court  of  Nicomedia  was  in  great  measure  composed  of  Chris- 

1  Some  put  this  graffito  a  little  later,  perhaps  in  the  days  of  Alexandei 
Severus,  A.D.  222-35. 


tians ;     the    wife     and     daughter     of    the     Emperor    were 

From  this  chain  of  references  to  the  presence  of  Christians 
in  the  imperial  court  from  the  days  of  S.  Paul  to  the  latter 
years  of  the  third  century,  we  are  compelled  to  conclude  that 
large  allowances  on  the  part  of  the  Emperor  were  not  unfre- 
quently  made  to  the  sect,  and  even  that  not  a  few  concessions 
outwardly  to  take  part  in  the  ceremonies  of  official  paganism 
must  have  been  allowed  to  the  Christian  courtier  all  through 
the  period  when  Christianity  was  an  unlawful  and  forbidden 

In  the  army  a  similar  spirit  of  mutual  allowance  and  con 
cession  must  have  been  often  shown.  It  is  clear  that  from  the 
very  first  there  were  not  a  few  Christian  soldiers  in  the 
Legions.  There  must  have  been  many  cases  in  which  the 
superior  officers  connived  at  the  scruples  of  Christian  soldiers  ; 
while,  on  the  other  hand,  the  Christian  Legionary  must  have 
consented  generally  to  share  in  the  more  public  and  official 
ceremonies  in  which  the  old  worship  of  the  gods  was  inextric 
ably  mixed  up.  Nowhere  were  the  difficulties,  however,  for 
believers  more  acute  than  in  the  army,  and  the  slightest  ill-will 
or  pagan  bigotry  on  the  part  of  the  superior  officer  made  the 
position  of  a  Christian  soldier  absolutely  untenable  even  when 
the  soldier  belonged  to  what  we  have  termed  the  gentler  and 
more  accommodating  school  of  Christian  teaching.  Martyrs 
in  the  army,  it  has  been  noticed,  were  relatively  more  numerous 
than  in  the  civil  callings.1 

The  civil  service  contained  undoubtedly  many  Christians 
in  the  early  centuries  of  the  era  ;  see  Aristides  (Apol.  xv.),  who, 
writing  of  Christians,  says  :  "  Where  they  are  judges  they  judge 
righteously."  Tertullian  refers  to  the  presence  of  Christians 

1  The  well-known  recital  of  the  martyrdom  of  S.  Maurice  and  of  the  Theban 
Legion,  whether  it  be  accepted  as  absolutely  genuine  or  not,  is  an  admirable 
instance  of  the  ever-present  dangers  and  difficulties  of  a  Christian  soldier  of 
the  Empire.  The  scene  of  the  terrible  and  wholesale  martyrdom  was  Agaunum 
(S.  Maurice),  some  nine  miles  distant  from  Octodurus  (Martigny)  in  the 
Canton  of  Valais,  and  the  date  was  circa  A.D.  292-6.  Maximian  was  then 
reigning  as  colleague  of  Diocletian.  The  authenticity  of  the  story  is  main 
tained  by  Ruinart,  who  includes  it  in  his  Acta  Sincera  ;  by  Tillemont,  and  in 
our  days  by  Allard,  who,  however,  cuts  down  the  Legion  to  a  cohort.  Harnack, 
on  the  other  hand,  and  others  doubt  its  authenticitv. 


in  all  ranks,  and  states  how  "  they  could  be  found  in  the 
palace,  in  the  Senate,  and  in  the  Forum  "  (Ad.  Nat,  i.  i  and 
Apol.  i.).  Cyprian,  Ep.  Ixxx.  i,  and  other  early  authorities 
could  be  quoted  here.  Eus.  H.  E.  viii.  i,  specially  mentions 
how  provinces  were  occasionally  ruled  by  Christian  governors, 
and  calls  attention  to  a  Phrygian  city  whose  whole  population 
including  officials  were  Christians.  He  was  writing  of  the  last 
years  of  the  third  century.  Such  Christian  officials  must  have 
had  great  allowances  made  to  them,  and  they  must  have  often 
availed  themselves  of  the  licence  permitted  to  believers  on  the 
occasion  of  purely  State  ceremonials,  which  were  literally  per 
meated  with  references  to  the  old  State  religion. 

Instances  and  examples  from  the  Old  Testament  books 
were  adduced  by  the  teachers  of  the  gentler  school  of  Christian 
life  in  support  of  the  allowances  made  to  believers  to  retain 
their  court  appointments  and  civil  service  offices,  and  to  carry 
on  their  professions  in  spite  of  the  idolatrous  associations 
connected  with  these  offices  and  callings. 

Great  saints  such  as  Daniel — revered  patriarchs  such  as 
Joseph — had  been  ministers  of  mighty  idol-worshipping 
sovereigns,  and  must  have  been  present  at  and  given  a  cer 
tain  countenance  to  official  pagan  ceremonies.  Naaman,  the 
eminent  servant  of  the  King  of  Syria,  after  he  had  accepted 
the  worship  of  the  God  of  Israel,  even  asked  the  great  prophet 
Elisha  permission  to  accompany  his  royal  master  into  the 
temple  of  the  god  Rimmon,  and  to  pay  obeisance  to  the  Syrian 
idol  on  State  occasions ;  and  asked  that  he  might  be  forgiven 
for  this  apparent  act  of  idolatry.  In  reply,  Elisha  simply 
bade  him  "  go  in  peace  "  (2  Kings  v.  18-19). 

But  in  spite  of  these  kindly  allowances,  these  gentler 
rules  and  directions,  the  condition  of  Christians,  even  for 
those,  and  they  certainly  were  in  the  majority,  who  followed 
the  teaching  of  the  more  kindly  and  lenient  school,  was  very 
hard  and  difficult.  In  the  family  life — in  public  life,  the 
searchings  of  heart  of  a  true  believer  must  have  been  often 
very  acute  and  distressing,  and  their  position  most  precarious  ; 
and  in  those  times  when  a  wave  of  pagan  fanaticism  swept 
over  the  imperial  court,  the  province,  or  the  city,  no  maxims 
of  earthly  prudence  and  caution,  however  carefully  followed 


out,  would  have  been  able  to  save  them  from  prosecution ; 
and  prosecution  was  invariably  followed  by  the  breaking 
up  of  their  homes,  by  rigorous  imprisonment,  confiscation  of 
their  property,  loss  of  rank  and  position,  too  often  by  torture 
and  death. 

To  turn  once  more  to  the  sterner  and  smaller  school  of 
"  Rigourists,"  for  these,  after  all,  were  "  les  ames  d'elite  " 
of  the  Christians  in  the  first  three  centuries  ;  in  later  times 
such  men  and  women  possibly  were  termed  fanatics,  they 
have  been  often  branded  as  wild  and  unpractical  persons  ; 
but  it  was  to  these  heroic  souls  after  all  that  in  great  measure 
Christianity  owed  its  final  victory. 

The  wonderful  and  rapid  spread  of  Christianity  notice 
able  after  the  Milan  toleration  Edict  of  Constantine,  A.D. 
313,  has  often  been  commented  upon  with  surprise.  From 
being  a  persecuted  and  despised  cult,  Christianity  became, 
long  before  the  fourth  century  had  run  its  course,  the  religion 
of  the  Empire  ;  it  had  previously  gained  evidently  the  hearts  of 
the  people  in  well-nigh  all  the  provinces  of  the  mighty  Empire. 

Now  no  imperial  edicts — no  mere  favour  and  patronage 
of  the  Emperor  and  his  court,  could  ever  have  won  for  Chris 
tianity  that  widespread  and  general  acceptance  among  the 
people  so  noticeable  within  fifty  years  of  the  Milan  proclama 
tion  of  Constantine.1  Something  more  was  needed.  For 
a  little  over  two  hundred  years  the  Christians  had  been 
sowing  the  seeds  of  a  new  and  nobler  view  of  life — "  it  had 
gradually  taught  the  supreme  sanctity  of  love — it  had  pre 
sented  an  ideal  destined  for  centuries  to  draw  around  it  all 
that  was  greatest  as  well  as  all  that  was  noblest  on  earth  ; 
and  one  great  cause  of  its  success  was  that  it  produced  more 
heroic  actions  and  formed  more  upright  men  than  any  other 
creed.  .  .  .  Noble  lives  crowned  by  heroic  deaths  were  the 
best  arguments  of  the  infant  Church." 

1  The  edicts  favourable  to  Christianity  were  quietly  received,  even  approved, 
in  many  places  warmly  welcomed  ;    and  vast  and  ever  increasing  numbers  of 
the  population,  hitherto  pagans,  joined  the  Christian  communities. 

The  enormous  and  seemingly  sudden  increase  in  the  number  of  Christians 
in  the  Roman  Empire  in  the  latter  years  of  the  third  and  in  the  fourth  centuries, 
is  a  problem  which  even  now  is  something  of  a  mystery  to  some  historians. 

2  See  Lecky,  Hist,  of  Morals,  chap.  hi. 


There  is  no  doubt  but  that  a  deep  impression  had  been 
gradually  made  upon  the  masses  (i.e.  the  people  generally 
of  the  Empire)  by  the  undaunted  behaviour  under  suffering, 
of  the  confessors  in  the  two  centuries  which  followed  the 
death  of  Peter  and  Paul ;  and  this  impression  was  deepened 
by  the  events  connected  with  the  last  terrible  persecution  of 
Diocletian.  The  extent  of  this  last  onslaught,  the  awful 
severity  of  its  edicts,  the  fearful  thoroughness  with  which 
these  edicts  were  carried  out,  the  numbers,  the  constancy 
and  brave  patience  of  the  confessors,  went  home  to  the  hearts 
of  the  indifferent ;  it  affected  even  the  enemies  of  the  Church, 
and  brought  about  a  complete  revulsion  of  feeling  towards 
the  once  hated  and  despised  sect. 

And  it  must  be  remembered  that  the  examples  of  the 
marvellous  endurance  of  suffering,  the  constancy,  the  brave 
patience,  the  heroic  deaths,  were  drawn  in  a  vast  majority 
of  conspicuous  cases  from  the  school  of  Rigourists,  from  that 
company  of  men  and  women  of  intense,  perhaps  of  exag 
gerated  earnestness,  who  listened  to  and  obeyed  the  burning 
words  of  a  Tertullian  or  an  Hippolytus,  rather  than  to  the 
gentler  counsels  of  a  Minucius  Felix  and  the  teachers  who 
pointed  out  to  Christians  a  way  of  living  in  the  world  which 
only  rarely  required  such  tremendous  sacrifices  as  home 
and  family,  career  and  profession,  even  life  itself — things 
very  dear  to  men. 

Surely  no  just  historian  would  dare  to  speak  slightingly 
of  these  splendid  lives  of  utter  sacrifice  of  self,  when  he  re 
flects  on  the  power  which  such  lives  have  exercised  over  their 
fellow-men.  The  debt  which  Christianity  owes  to  this  stern 
school  of  Rigourists  is  simply  measureless. 

In  the  last  half  of  the  third  century  there  arose  a  Christian 
poet — the  first  great  song-man  who  had  appeared  since  the 
famous  singers  of  the  Augustan  age  had  passed  away.  The 
popularity  of  Prudentius  has  been  enduring ;  for  centuries  in 
many  lands  his  striking  and  original  poems  have  been  read 
and  re-read.  Among  his  poems  the  most  eagerly  sought  after 
have  been  the  hymns  descriptive  of  and  in  praise  of  the  martyrs 
for  the  "  Name's  "  sake.  These  loved  poems  are  known  as 
"  Peri-Stephanon  "—the  Book  of  the  (Martyrs')  Crowns. 


It  is  the  halo  of  glory  surrounding  these  martyrs  or  con 
fessors  that  especially  strikes  the  historian.  We  see  in  these 
popular  poems  what  a  profound,  what  a  lasting  impression 
the  sufferings  of  the  martyrs  had  made  on  the  peoples  of  the 
Roman  Empire.  The  saint-sufferers,  men  or  women,  became 
soon  an  object  of  something  more  than  reverence. 

The  heroic  personages  of  Prudentius  belong  to  no  one 
land,  to  no  solitary  nationality.  Nowhere  was  the  truth  of 
the  well-known  saying  that  "  the  blood  of  the  martyr  was  the 
seed  of  the  Church  "  more  conspicuously  exemplified  than  in 
the  songs  of  Prudentius.  It  has  been  remarked  with  great 
force  and  truth  that  in  the  burning  lilts  of  this  great  Spanish 
poet  of  the  later  years  of  the  fourth  century,  we  must 
perforce  recognize  something  more  than  the  inspiration  of  a 
solitary  individual.  We  seem  to  hear  in  his  impassioned 
words  the  echoes  of  the  voice  of  the  people.1 

1  Prudentius  does  not  stand  alone  as  voicing  the  opinions  of  the  people. 
A  contemporary  of  his — Paulinus  of  Nola — although  far  behind  Prudentius 
in  genius,  was  a  poet  of  considerable  power.  This  Paulinus,  a  person  of 
high  dignity  and  of  great  wealth,  when  still  comparatively  young,  withdrew 
from  the  world  and  devoted  himself  to  religion  ;  he  has  left  behind  him  a 
collection  of  poems,  which  he  wrote  annually  on  the  occasion  of  the  Festival 
of  S.  Felix,  a  martyr  in  whose  honour  he  erected  a  basilica.  His  poems,  of 
which  some  5000  lines  have  been  preserved,  contain  many  vivid  pictures 
illustrative  of  the  popular  aspect  of  Christianity  in  the  latter  years  of  the 
fourth  century.  He  loves  to  dwell  on  the  intense  devotion  of  the  people  to  the 
memory  of  the  martyr  whom  he  loved,  S.  Felix  of  Nola.  and  tells  us  of  the 
crowds  of  pilgrims  visiting  his  shrine. 

Damasus,  bishop  of  Rome,  A.D.  366-84,  whose  many  and  elaborate 
works  of  restoration  of  the  Roman  catacombs  are  dwelt  on  in  trie  section 
of  this  work  treating  of  the  great  City  of  the  Dead,  beneath  the  suburbs 
of  Rome,  bears  a  similar  testimony  to  the  widespread  devotion  of  the  people 
to  the  memory  of  the  martyrs  of  the  days  of  persecution.  His  elaborate 
works  in  the  catacombs  were  all  designed  for  the  convenience  of  the  vast 
crowds  of  pilgrims,  in  the  second  half  of  the  fourth  century,  from  many 
lands  to  the  shrines  where  the  remains  of  the  more  famous  martyrs  had  been 



SUCH  was  the  life  of  a  Christian  for  nearly  two  hundred  and 
fifty  years  after  the  deaths  of  Peter  and  Paul  at  Rome. 
For  all,  as  we  have  urged,  even  for  the  majority  who 
were  disciples  of  the  gentler,  less  exacting  school  of  teaching, 
but  who  generally  accepted  the  yoke  and  burden  of  Christ, 
the  life  must  have  been  very  hard  and  difficult,  at  times  even 
full  of  danger  ;  while  for  some,  i.e.,  for  the  disciples  of  the 
school  of  "  Rigourists,"  so  hard — so  austere — so  full  of  name 
less  perils,  that  men  now  can  scarcely  credit  that  any  could 
really  have  lived  so  difficult,  so  painful  a  life — could  have 
listened  to  and  striven  in  real  earnest  to  obey  such  rules 
as  the  great  Rigourist  master,  Tertullian,  laid  down  for  the 
faithful ;  as,  for  instance  : 

"  Fast — because  rigid  fasting  is  a  preparation  for  martyr 
dom  ;  tortures  will  have  no  material  to  work  on  ;  your  dry 
skins  will  better  resist  the  iron  claws  ;  your  blood,  already 
exhausted,  will  flow  less  freely."  x 

"  Women,  shun  the  marriage  bond.  To  what  purpose 
will  you  bear  children,  seeing  you  are  longing  to  be  taken 
out  of  this  sinful  world,  and  you  are  desirous  to  send  your 
children  before  you2  (to  glory)." 

'  Ye  women  (take  heed  how  you  adorn  yourselves),  for  I 
know  not  how  the  wrist  that  is  accustomed  to  the  (gemmed) 
bracelet  will  endure  the  roughness  of  the  chain.  I  know 
not  how  the  leg  that  has  rejoiced  in  the  golden  anklet  will 
endure  the  harsh  restraint  of  the  iron  fetters.  I  fear  the 
neck  hung  round  with  a  chain  of  pearls  and  emeralds  will 

1  Tertullian,  On  Fasting,  12.  2  Tertullian,  To  his  Wife,  5. 


leave  scanty  room  for  the  sword  of  the  executioner." 
"  Dear  sisters,  let  us  meditate  on  hardships,  then  when 
they  come  to  us  we  shall  not  feel  them ;  let  us  give 
up  luxuries  and  we  shall  not  regret  them ;  for  Christians 
now,  remember,  pass  their  time  not  in  gold,  but  in  iron. 
At  this  moment  are  the  angels  weaving  for  you  robes  of 
martyrdom."  1 

But  in  return  for  all  this,  Christianity  offered  much — in 
truth,  a  splendid  guerdon  for  the  life  of  sacrifice.  In  the  first 
place,  the  Christian  was  delivered  from  the  dread  spectre  which 
constantly  haunted  the  life  of  the  pagan — the  fear  of  death. 
Throughout  life,  sleeping  and  waking,  to  the  pagan  of  all  ranks 
and  orders,  death  was  an  enemy.  What  the  men  of  the  pagan 
Empire  in  the  early  Christian  centuries  felt  in  respect  of  the 
great  universal  foe — what  they  thought  of  it — is  well  shown 
in  the  epitaphs  on  the  pagan  tombs  of  the  first,  second,  and 
third  centuries.2 

Complete  freedom  from  this  ever-present  dread  was  the 
immediate  reward  received  by  the  believer  :  so  far  was  death 
from  being  an  enemy,  that  to  the  Christian  it  appeared  as  the 
best  and  most  longed  for  friend.  Again  and  again  the  Church 
was  compelled  to  restrain  rather  than  to  encourage  candidates 
for  martyrdom.  From  Paul,  who  wrote  how  "  he  desired  to 
depart  and  be  with  Christ,  which  was  far  better  "  (Phil.  i.  23) ; 
from  Ignatius,  whose  passionate  desire  for  a  martyr's  death 
appears  and  reappears,  in  his  Letter  to  the  Romans,  in  such 
words  as  "  it  is  good  for  me  to  die  for  Jesus  Christ,  rather  than 
to  reign  over  the  farthest  bounds  of  the  earth  "  ;  "  Suffer  me 
to  receive  the  pure  light  when  I  come  thither,  then  I  shall 
be  a  man  indeed  "  ;  "  Let  me  be  an  imitator  of  the  passion 
of  my  God "  (To  the  Romans,  vi.)  ;  from  the  thousand 
epitaphs  in  the  catacomb  tombs,  which  we  can  still  read, 
we  gather  this  knowledge — the  absolute  freedom  of  the 
Christian  from  that  fear  of  death  which  weighed  so  heavily 
upon  all  pagan  society. 

The  very  expressions  used  by  the  disciples  of  the  first 

1  Tertullian,  On  Female  Dress,  xi.  13. 

2  Examples  of  these  are  given  below ;  see  p.  313  of  this  work. 


centuries  when  speaking  of  the  dread  enemy,1  bear  curious 
witness  to  the  new  relation  of  the  believer  to  the  ancient  foe 
of  man ;  they  spoke  of  death  as  "  a  passage  into  life  " — as 
"  a  sleep."  The  spot  where  the  dead  were  laid  was  now 
termed  "  a  cemetery  "  — "  a  place  of  sleeping  "  ;  burial  was 
called  "  depositio  " — the  body  laid  up  as  it  were  in  trust. 

Cyprian  the  saintly,  the  martyr  Bishop  of  Carthage,  well 
voices  the  feelings  of  Christians  in  the  matter  of  death  the 
friend  : 2  "  Let  us  think  what  we  mean  when  we  speak  of  the 
presence  of  Christ  (after  death),  of  the  increasing  hosts  of  our 
friends,  the  loved,  the  reverenced,  the  sainted  who  are  there. 
Cyprian  cannot  even  mourn  the  departed — he  only  misses 
them  as  friends  gone  on  a  long  journey.  He  is  unable  to 
bear  the  putting  on  black  garments  of  mourning,  in  memory 
of  those  who  wear  the  fadeless  white.  "  Put  the  terror  of 
death  quite  away — think  only  of  the  deathlessness  beyond." 
"  Let  us  greet  the  day  which  gives  to  each  of  us  his  own 
country  .  .  .  which  restores  us  to  paradise.  Who  that  has 
lived  in  foreign  lands  would  not  hasten  to  go  back  to  his  own 
country  ?  .  .  .  We  look  on  paradise  as  our  country." 

The  wondrous  joy  which  came  to  the  Christian  in  the  assem 
blies  we  have  been  picturing — the  fact  of  the  new  Brother 
hood — the  feeling  of  the  presence  of  the  Master  in  their  midst, 
watching  over  them — has  been  already  dwelt  upon  at  some 

The  blessed  consciousness  of  the  forgiveness  of  all  sin,  the 
knowledge  that  in  repentance  and  in  prayer  they  could  ever 
wash  anew  their  scarred  robes  white  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb, 
was  a  source  of  perpetual  and  ever-recurring  joy  to  the  earnest 
Christian.  The  doctrine  of  the  atonement  ever  would  give 
them  constant  comfort  and  confidence  in  all  the  difficulties 
and  dangers  of  common  everyday  life—  '  Though  their  sins 
were  as  scarlet  they  would  become  white  as  snow,"  was  an 
ancient  Hebrew  saying  of  Isaiah.  It  was  one  of  the  precious 
treasures  inherited  by  the  Christian  from  the  Jewish  Church. 
And  in  the  sorely  harassed  and  tempted  life  of  the  world  of 

1  Some  of  the  more  remarkable  of  these  are  quoted  in  Book  IV.  pt.  iii. 
(pp.  309-312). 

a  On  "  the  Mortality,"  i.e.  the  plague  of  Alexandria,  20-24. 


Rome  the  words  would  be  often  repeated  by  the  believers, 
with  the  new  striking  Christian  addition — "  when  washed  in 
the  blood  of  the  Lamb,"  and  the  memory  of  the  beautiful 
saying  would  ever  supply  fresh  courage  for  the  conflict. 

Perhaps  the  most  powerful  and  sustaining  of  all  the 
Christian  beliefs,  the  one  that  never  for  an  instant  was  absent 
from  their  thoughts,  was  the  hope — aye,  more  than  hope,  the 
certainty  that  bliss  indescribable  awaited  the  soul  of  the 
happy  redeemed  the  moment  it  quitted  the  body — "  To-day 
shalt  thou  be  with  me  in  paradise" — a  wonderful  promise, 
indeed,  of  the  Redeemer,  which  must  have  brought  ineffable 
sweetness  and  repose  into  thousands  of  storm-tossed  hearts, 
— a  promise  which  must  have  made  up  for  many  a  hard  and 
painful  struggle.  The  life  so  hard  and  difficult — so  full  of 
dangers  and  perplexities — would  soon  come  to  an  end,  and 
then  at  once  the  beatific  vision  would  be  their  guerdon,  and 
rest  and  peace  and  joy  would  be  the  portion  of  the  redeemed 
souls  for  ever. 

Our  picture  of  the  inner  life  of  the  Christian  in  the  early 
Christian  centuries  would  be  incomplete  were  we  not  to  allude 
to  the  influence,  perhaps  scarcely  recognised  but  ever  at  work, 
of  portions  of  the  "  Revelation  "  of  S.  John.  Holding,  of  course, 
in  the  teaching  of  the  Christian  masters  a  very  different  posi 
tion  to  the  Gospels,  which,  of  course,  formed  the  authoritative 
basis  of  all  Christian  instruction,  the  "  Revelation  "  occupied 
a  peculiar  and  singularly  influential  place  in  the  thoughts  of 
the  early  harassed  believers. 

Many  of  the  more  mystical  and  obscure  sections  of  that 
wonderful  composition  which  was  very  generally  accepted  as  the 
work  of  the  beloved  apostle,  we  may  assume  were  little  dwelt 
upon  either  in  public  teaching  or  in  private  meditation ;  the 
mystic  prophecies  of  the  seer  were,  comparatively  speaking,  but 
little  read,  and  received  then  as  now  different  interpretations  ; 
but  interspersed  with  these  prophecies,  and  not  necessarily 
connected  with  them,  occur  passages  of  surpassing  beauty,  in 
which  pictures  of  the  heaven-life  are  painted  by  no  mortal 
hand.  It  was  these  which  arrested  the  imagination,  and  found 
a  home  in  many  a  Christian  heart.  The  passages  which 


contained  these  pictures  were  no  doubt  repeated  again  and 
again  by  lonely  harassed  men  and  women  in  the  silent  watches 
of  the  night,  in  the  public  worship,  in  the  study  chamber, 
especially  in  the  hour  of  danger  and  trial. 

The  hope  of  a  glorious  eternity  was  vividly  painted  in 
several  remarkable  passages  of  S.  John's  great  Vision  of  Heaven 
and  the  future  things.  The  disciples  of  the  sterner  school, 
who  were  trained  so  to  speak  for  martyrdom,  felt  themselves 
specially  addressed  when  the  Seer  told  his  vision  of  the  thrones 
and  of  those  who  sat  on  them, — they  would  occupy  the  place  of 
the  souls  of  those  who  had  been  slain  for  the  witness  of  Jesus 
(Rev.  xx.  4) ;  and  again  they  would  call  to  mind  that  when  the 
Seer  asked  who  were  these  arrayed  in  white  robes,  and  whence 
came  they  ?  he  was  told  that  these  were  they  which  came  out 
of  great  tribulation,  and  who  have  washed  their  robes  and 
made  them  white  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb  ;  and  that  therefore 
were  they  before  the  throne  of  God,  and  that  from  their 
eyes  God  would  wipe  away  all  tears  (Rev.  vii.  13-17). 

To  the  disciples  of  the  gentler  school,  too,  words  of  immortal 
hope  were  spoken  often  in  the  same  Book  which  spoke  as  no 
writing  of  earth  had  ever  spoken  before  of  the  heaven-life. 
The  Seer  heard  as  it  were  the  voice  of  a  great  multitude,  and 
said  how  blessed  they  were  which  are  called  to  the  marriage- 
supper  of  the  Lamb  ;  and  the  same  Seer  heard  how  there 
should  be  no  more  death,  neither  sorrow  nor  crying ;  and 
again  repeated  the  glorious  promise  that  His  servants  (all 
His  servants)  should  see  His  face,  and  that  they  should  reign 
for  ever  and  ever  (Rev.  xix.  6,  9,  xxi.  4,  xxii.  4,  5). 

Moreover,  they  read  and  pondered  over  that  most  beautiful, 
most  exhaustive  promise  made  to  all  His  faithful  servants,— 
not  only  to  the  martyr  band, — "  Blessed  are  they  that  wash 
their  robes,  that  they  may  have  the  right  to  come  to  the  tree 
of  life,  and  may  enter  in  by  the  gates  into  the  city  (of  God)." 
(Rev.  xxii.  14,  REVISED  VERSION). 

These  and  many  other  like  sunlit  sayings  of  the  Book  of 
Life  in  the  Gospels,  Epistles,  and  Revelation  of  S.  John  were 
ever  ringing  in  the  ears  of  the  Christians  of  the  first  days,  and 
telling  them  of  the  immortal  hope  which  was  their  blessed 


treasure, — words  which  sweetened  their  hard  and  too  fre 
quently  painful  lot,  which  made  them  feel  that  they  had  made 
a  good  exchange  when  they  gave  up  the  fleeting  and  often 
sinful  pleasures  of  earth  for  the  sure  hope  of  the  immortal 
joys  of  heaven.  They  felt  how  poor  and  tawdry  after  all  were 
the  things  they  had  renounced  in  comparison  with  what 
awaited  them  when  the  short  and  weary  period  of  human  life 
came  to  an  end. 

In  spite  of  what  the  believers  renounced  for  the  Name's 
sake,  notwithstanding  the  many  daily  trials  and  dangers  to 
which  they  were  ever  exposed,  they  were  strangely  happy 
with  a  new  happiness  quite  unknown  in  the  old  pagan  world, 
with  a  joy  no  man  could  take  from  them.  Pagan  society, 
whenever  it  deigned  to  notice  them,  treated  them  with  a  con 
temptuous  pity,  which  too  often  shaded  into  positive  hatred. 
We  see  this  in  the  "  Acts  "  of  the  Martyrs  from  the  questions 
put  to  them  by  the  Roman  officials  when  they  were  brought 
before  the  tribunals,  simply  because  they  were  Christians. 
This  was  the  estimate  of  the  sect  entertained  by  men  like 
the  great  Antonine  Emperors,  Pius  and  Marcus.  The  summary 
of  Fronto  the  famous  rhetorician,  Marcus'  tutor  and  friend, 
reproduced  in  the  discourse  of  Caecilius  in  the  Dialogue  of 
Minucius  Felix,  repeats  too  clearly  the  same  disparaging  view 
coloured  with  contempt  and  scarcely  veiled  hatred. 

Nowhere  is  the  pagan  conception  of  the,  misery  and  wretch 
edness  of  the  Christian  life  more  clearly  expressed  than 
in  the  picturesque  and  graphic  poem  of  Rutilius  Namatianus,1 
a  contemporary  of  Paulinus  of  Nola  in  the  first  years  of  the 
fifth  century. 

It  is  a  comparatively  late  pagan  criticism  of  Christian 
ity,  but  it  admirably  expresses  the  common  view  of  pagan 
society,  and  exactly  coincides  with  the  opinion  of  such 
eminent  Romans  as  Marcus  and  his  friend  Fronto  in  the 
second  century. 

1  This  Rutilius  was  a  Gallic  gentleman  of  high  position  who  had  filled 
important  offices  at  Rome,  and  had  become  a  Senator.  His  undisguised 
opinion  of  the  Christian  sect  appears  in  a  graceful  poem  descriptive  of  a  sea- 
trip  from  Rome  (Ostia  probably)  to  South  Gaul.  The  work  in  question  was 
composed  circa  A.D.  416. 


"  Is  there  any  sense,"  writes  Rutilius,  "  in  living  a 
wretched  life  for  fear  of  becoming  unhappy  ?  these  Christians 
love  to  torture  themselves  :  they  are  more  cruel  even  than  the 
offended  gods.  I  ask  the  question,  has  not  the  sect  the  secret 
of  poisons  more  deadly  than  any  possessed  by  Circe  ;  for  Circe 
only  brought  about  a  danger  in  the  body,  but  these  people 
change  the  very  soul  ?  " 

The  life  of  a  Christian  in  the  first  two  hundred  and  fifty 
years  of  the  era  was,  however,  as  we  have  shown,  emphatically 
no  sad  and  mournful,  no  wretched  existence.  It  was  a  life 
unspeakably  bright  and  happy,  undreamed  of  by  any  poet  or 
philosopher  in  the  many-sided  story  of  paganism. 



- < 

PART    I 


A.D.  64-A.D.  180 

THERE  is  really  no  doubt  but  that  in  the  period  of  which 
we  are  writing  in  this  Third  Book,  roughly  stretching 
over  some  hundred  and  sixteen  years,  with  very  short 
intervals  of  comparative  stillness,  the  Christian  sect  constantly 
lived  under  the  veiled  shadow  of  persecution  ;  the  penalties 
exacted  for  the  confession  of  the  Name  were  very  severe — the 
confessors  were  ever  exposed  to  confiscation  of  their  goods, 
to  harsh  imprisonment,  to  torture,  and  to  death. 

This  state  of  things,  which  existed  in  the  Church  in  Rome 
and  in  all  the  communities  of  Christians,  is  disclosed  to  us  not 
merely  or  even  principally  in  the  Acts  of  Martyrs,  which  for 
this  very  early  period  are  comparatively  few  in  number,  and, 
with  a  few  notable  exceptions,  of  questionable  authority,  but 
largely  from  the  fragments  of  contemporary  Christian  writings 
of  undoubted  authenticity  which  have  come  down  to  us.1 

These  fragments,  for  several  of  these  writings  are  but 
fragments,  represent  a  somewhat  considerable  literature,  and 
they  may  be  looked  upon  as  descriptive  of  much  of  the  life 
led  by  Christians  during  these  hundred  and  sixteen  years,2  the 

1  The  testimony  of  the  Roman  catacombs  here  is  also  very  weighty.  See 
Book  III.  part  iii.,  where  the  numbers  of  martyrs  and  confessors  buried  in  the 
catacombs  are  especially  dwelt  on. 

-In   this  Third  Book,  where   the  question  of  the  persecutions  to  which 


164          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

period  when  the  religion  of  Jesus  was  gradually  but  rapidly 
taking  root  in  the  world  of  Rome.  With  one  notable  excep 
tion  the  writings  to  which  we  refer  issued  from  the  heart  of 
the  New  Sect. 

We  shall  give  a  chain  of  some  of  the  more  striking  passages 
from  the  fragments  of  the  works  in  question,  the  passages 
which  especially  bear  upon  the  ceaseless  persecution  which 
the  Christians  had  to  endure  during  that  period  we  are  dwelling 
upon  in  this  section — which  ended  with  the  death  of  Marcus 
and  the  accession  of  his  son  Commodus  in  A.D.  180. 

The  quotations  will  be  divided  into  two  groups  :  the  first 
from  writings  of  apostles  and  apostolic  men  ;  that  is,  of  men 
who  had  seen  and  conversed  with  the  apostles  themselves. 
The  dates  of  this  first  group  of  witnesses  range  from  the  days 
of  Nero  to  the  days  of  Trajan,  roughly  from  A.D.  64  to  A.D. 
107-10.  The  second  group  will  include  writings  dating  from 
the  days  of  Trajan  to  the  accession  of  Commodus,  A.D.  180  : 
the  approximate  dates  of  each  writing  and  a  very  brief  account 
of  the  several  authors  will  be  given. 

It  will  be  seen  that  the  allusions  to  a  state  of  persecution 
grow  more  numerous,  more  detailed  and  emphatic  after  A.D. 
134-5,  the  date  of  the  close  of  the  last  terrible  Jewish  war  in 
the  latter  years  of  the  Emperor  Hadrian,  when  the  line  of 
separation  between  the  Jew  and  the  Christian  became  definitely 
marked,  and  the  position  and  attitude  of  the  Christians  was 
no  longer  merely  contemptuously  viewed,  but  was  misliked 
and  even  feared  by  the  State  authorities,  who  then  (after 

the  early  Christian  Church  was  subjected  is  discussed,  the  period  especi 
ally  alluded  to  stretches  from  circa  A.D.  64  to  A.D.  180,  including  the  reigns 
of  the  Flavian  Emperors,  of  Hadrian  and  the  Antonines. 

But  the  conditions  under  which  the  Christians  in  the  Roman  Empire 
lived  during  the  century  and  a  quarter  which  followed  the  period  above 
referred  to,  in  very  many  respects  differed  but  little  from  those  that  pre 
vailed  in  the  earlier  years — only  in  the  later  period  there  were  more  years  of 
comparative  immunity  from  active  persecution,  while,  on  the  ether  hand, 
when  the  comparatively  "still"  years  came  to  an  end,  the  cruelties  inflicted 
upon  the  Christians  were  more  marked,  and  the  severity  of  the  punishments 
meted  out  by  the  dominant  pagan  party  in  the  State  were  greater  and  more 
far-reaching  than  in  the  earlier  days — notably  in  the  reigns  of  Maximin, 
Decius  and  Diocletian. 


A.D.  135)  for  the  first  time  clearly  saw  what  a  great  and  power 
ful  society  had  grown  up  in  the  heart  of  the  Empire. 

What  a  weighty  group  of  words  are  those  we  are  about  to 
quote  !  They  were  written  by  men  who  lived  in  the  heart  of 
that  little  Society  who  with  a  love  stronger  than  death  loved 
Jesus  of  Nazareth  as  their  friend  and  their  God.  They  are 
words  which  are  embedded  in  their  letters — their  devotional 
works — their  histories — their  pleading  treatises  and  apologies 
for  the  faith,  the  faith  which  they  esteemed  of  greater  price 
than  life. 

Intensely  real,  they  tell  us  of  the  life  they  and  theirs  were 
leading  :  reading  them  we  seem  to  breathe  the  air  they 
breathed  ;  the  simple  unvarnished  story  tells  us  what  daily, 
hourly  perils  were  theirs, — what  awful  trials,  what  unspeakable 
dangers  ever  surrounded  them  ;  they  show  how  hard  it  was  to 
be  a  Christian  in  those  early  days  in  the  first  hundred  years 
which  followed  the  "  passing  "  of  S.  John. 

Nothing  we  can  say  now — write  now — can  give  us  a  picture, 
a  living  picture,  of  the  life  of  these  first  generations  of  believers 
in  the  Name,  as  do  these  words  gathered  from  the  fragments 
of  contemporary  writings  which  have  come  down  to  us  across 
the  long  ages  of  storm  and  stress  and  change. 

In  the  first  group  we  will  briefly  examine  the  following  :— 
The  Epistle  to  the  Hebrews,  circa  A.D.  65-6  ;  the  First  Epistle 
of  S.  Peter,  circa  A.D.  65-7 ;  the  Apocalypse  of  S.  John  (the 
Revelation),  circa  A.D.  90  ;  the  ist  Epistle  of  S.  Clement  of 
Rome,  circa  A.D.  95.  To  this  little  selection  we  would  add 
The  Seven  Epistles  of  S.  Ignatius,  A.D.  107-10,  now  generally 
received  as  undoubtedly  genuine. 



THE  first  three  of  the  above-mentioned  writings  possess 
a  peculiar  authority  ;    they  have  been  from  very  early 
times    recognized  as   forming    part  of    the    Canon    of 
New  Testament  Scriptures  :   of  these  three  the  Epistle  to  the 
Hebrews  is  generally  believed  to  have  been  composed  about 
A.D.  65-6.     The  congregations  addressed  in  it  had  evidently 
been  exposed  to  grave  afflictions,  and  are  told  that  a  more 
awful  trial  awaits  them  in  no  distant  future.     For  this  bitter 
persecution  they  must  prepare  themselves. 

A  number  of  examples  of  noble  and  heroic  resistances  to 
trial  and  temptation  are  cited  (Heb.  xi.  32-40,  xii.  1-4)  ;  the 
writer  of  the  Epistle  evidently  expected  that  similar  experi 
ences  will  be  the  lot  of  the  congregation  he  was  addressing. 


The  second  writing,  which  will  be  examined  at  rather  greater 
length,  is  of  the  utmost  importance  as  a  witness  to  the  view 
of  the  perpetual  persecution  to  which  after  A.D.  64  the  sect 
was  exposed.  The  First  Epistle  of  S.  Peter  *  was  put  out 
circa  65-7.  It  was  written  manifestly  in  a  time  of  persecution  ; 
the  keynote  of  the  Epistle  is  consolation  and  encouragement 

1  This  early  and  usually  accepted  date,  circa  65-7,  seems  the  more  prob 
ably  correct.  It  is  the  traditional  date,  and  generally  fits  in  with  the  life  and 
work  of  S.  Peter  as  given  in  the  ancient  authorities.  Prof.  Ramsay,  however, 
The  Church  in  the  Empire,  puts  it  some  fourteen  or  fifteen  years  later,  and 
concludes  that  the  Apostle's  martyrdom  took  place  after  A.D.  80.  If,  however, 
this  later  date  be  adopted,  the  references  to  the  continual  persecution  would 
be  even  more  striking  than  if  the  earlier  and  traditional  date  be  accepted. 

1 66 


for  the  distant  congregations  addressed.  The  persecution 
was  evidently  raging  in  Rome,  whence  the  letter  was  written, 
but  it  was  rapidly  spreading  also  in  the  provinces  of  the  Empire. 
The  language  used  shows  it  was  no  isolated  capricious  on 
slaught,  but  a  systematic  and  legalized  attack  on  the  religion 
of  Jesus.  To  quote  a  few  passages  : 

"Now  for  a  season,  if  need  be,  ye  are  in  heaviness  by 
reason  of  manifold  temptations  :  that  the  trial  of  your  faith, 
being  more  precious  than  of  gold  which  perish eth,  though  it  be 
tried  with  fire,  might  be  found  unto  praise  and  honour  and 
glory  at  the  appearing  of  Jesus  Christ  "  (i.  6,  7). 

"  If  ye  suffer  for  righteousness'  sake,  happy  are  ye  ;  and 
be  not  afraid  of  their  terror,  neither  be  troubled.  ...  It  is 
better,  if  the  will  of  God  be  so,  that  ye  suffer  for  well  doing, 
than  for  evil  doing  "  (iii.  14-17). 

"  Beloved,  think  it  not  strange  concerning  the  fiery  trial 
which  is  to  try  you,  as  though  some  strange  thing  happened 
to  you  "  (iv.  12). 

"  If  ye  be  reproached  for  the  name  of  Christ,  happy  are 
ye ;  for  the  spirit  of  glory  and  of  God  resteth  upon  you.  .  .  . 
If  any  man  suffer  as  a  Christian,  let  him  not  be  ashamed  ;  but 
let  him  glorify  God  on  this  behalf  "  (iv.  14-16). 

"  Whom  resist  steadfast  in  the  faith,  knowing  that  the 
same  afflictions  are  accomplished  in  your  brethren  that  are 
in  the  world  "  (v.  9). 


The  Apocalypse  of  S.  John  is  now  generally  dated  circa 
A.D.  90  ;  the  keynote  of  this  strange  and  in  many  parts  beau 
tiful  writing — so  unlike,  save  in  certain  sections,  the  other 
acknowledged  books  of  the  New  Testament  Canon — is  the 
suffering  of  the  Church  :  just  a  quarter  of  a  century  had  elapsed 
since  Nero  and  his  advisers  resolved  upon  the  persecution  of 
the  congregations  of  the  believers  in  Jesus. 

No  one  can  read  this  striking  "  Revelation  "  of  S.  John, 
with  its  wonderful  visions,  its  exhortations,  its  words  of 
warning,  its  messages  of  encouragement  and  comfort,  with 
out  being  keenly  sensible  that  the  Church  therein  portrayed 


had  been  exposed — was  then  exposed  to  a  bitter,  relentless 
persecution ;  that  the  sufferers  were  witnesses  to  the  Name ; 
and  that  their  sufferings  were  not  owing  to  any  deeds  of 
wrong  or  treason  to  the  State,  but  purely  because  of  the  Name 
which  they  confessed.  They  had  been  condemned  simply 
because  they  were  Christians. 

It  is  true  that  comparatively  little  is  said  directly  about 
these  persecutions.  Other  subjects  clearly  are  far  more 
important  to  the  writer  ;  but  a  number  of  incidental  allusions 
to  the  sufferings  endured  in  the  course  of  persecution  occur — 
allusions  which  cannot  be  mistaken. 

We  will  quote  a  few  of  these.  Many  of  them  imply  that 
the  Church  was  exposed  to  a  long  continued  harrying  to  the 
death  : 

"  I  saw  under  the  altar  the  souls  of  those  that  were  slain 
for  the  word  of  God,  and  for  the  testimony  which  they  held : 
and  they  cried  with  a  loud  voice,  saying,  How  long,  O  Lord, 
holy  and  true,  dost  Thou  not  judge  and  avenge  our  blood  on 
them  that  dwell  on  the  earth  ?  And  white  robes  were  given 
unto  every  one  of  them ;  and  it  was  said  unto  them,  that 
they  should  rest  yet  for  a  little  season,  until  their  fellow- 
servants  also  and  their  brethren,  that  should  be  killed  as 
they  were,  should  be  fulfilled  "  (vi.  9-11). 

'  These  are  they  that  came  out  of  great  tribulation  .  .  . 
therefore  are  they  before  the  throne  of  God  "  (vii.  14-17). 

"  And  they  overcame  him  by  the  blood  of  the  Lamb,  and 
by  the  word  of  their  testimony ;  and  they  loved  not  their  lives 
unto  the  death  "  (xii.  n). 

'  They   have  shed   the   blood    of    saints  and  prophets  " 
(xvi.  6).  " 

"  And  I  saw  the  souls  of  them  that  were  beheaded  for 
the  witness  of  Jesus,  and  for  the  word  of  God  .  .  .  and 
they  lived  and  reigned  with  Christ  a  thousand  years." 
(xx.  4). 

The  victims  of  these  persecutions,  we  are  markedly  told, 
are  witnesses  to  the  "  Name  "  or  the  "  Faith  "  :  so  in  the 
letter  to  the  Church  in  Pergamos  we  read  : 

"  Thou  boldest  fast  My  name,  and  hast  not  denied  My 
Faith  "  (ii.  13). 


"  And  I  saw  the  woman 1  drunken  with  the  blood  of  the 
saints,  and  with  the  blood  of  the  martyrs  of  Jesus " 
(xvii.  6). 

The  persecution  had  been  of  long  standing  : 

"  I  know  thy  works,  and  where  thou  dwellest,  even  where 
Satan's  seat  is :  and  thou  holdest  fast  My  name  .  .  .  even  in 
those  days  wherein  Antipas  was  My  faithful  martyr,  who  was 
slain  among  you  "  (ii.  13). 

And  the  persecution  is  to  continue  : 

"  Fear  none  of  those  things  which  thou  shalt  suffer  .  .  . 
be  thou  faithful  unto  death,  and  I  will  give  thee  a  crown  of 
life  "  (ii.  10). 

Specially  interesting  from  an  historical  point  of  view  in 
this  connexion  of  the  testimony  of  the  "  Apocalypse "  of 
S.  John  with  the  sleepless  persecution  to  which  the  sect  was 
subjected,  is  Professor  Ramsay's  exegesis  of  the  words,  "And  all 
that  dwell  upon  the  earth  shall  worship  him  (the  beast)  whose 
names  are  not  written  in  the  Book  of  Life  of  the  Lamb  " 
(xiii.  8),  and  "  as  many  as  would  not  worship  the  image  of  the 
beast  should  be  killed  "  (xiii.  15). 

"  It  is  here  implied  that  the  persecutor  is  worshipped  as 
a  God  by  all  people  2  except  the  Christians,  and  that  the 
martyrs  are  slain  because  they  do  not  worship  '  the  beast  '- 
i.e.  the  Roman  Emperor.  Hence  their  refusal  to  worship 
'  the  beast  '  and  their  witness  to  their  own  God,  are  united 
in  one  act ;  and  this  implies  that  the  worship  of  '  the  beast ' 
(the  Emperor)  formed  a  test,  the  refusal  of  which  was  equiva 
lent  to  a  confession  and  witness.  .  .  . 

'  The  importance  attached  during  this  persecution  to  the 
worship  of  the  Emperor,  and  the  hatred  of  this  special  form 
of  idolatry  as  the  special  enemy,  have  dictated  the  phrase 
addressed  to  the  Church  of  Pergamos,  '  Thou  dwellest  where 

1  The  reference  here  is  to  pagan  Rome,  as  "  the  woman  drunken  with 
blood  "  ;  so  Mommsen  quoted  by  Ramsay,  who  dwells  on  the  fact  that  the 
death  of  the  saints  springs  directly  from  their  acknowledgment  of  their 
religion,  and  not  for  conviction  for  specific  crimes. 

"  The  mind  of  the  writer  is  practically  restricted  to  the  Roman  world. 
...  He  thinks  like  a  Roman  that  '  genus  humanum  '  is  the  Roman  world. 
The  nations  which  did  not  worship  the  Roman  Emperor  were  never  present 
to  his  mind  "  (Ramsay,  The  Church  in  the  Empire). 

170          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

the  throne  of  Satan,  i.e.  the  temple  of  Rome  and  Augustus,  is"1 

(ii.  13). 

The  peculiar  partiality  of  the  Emperor  Domitian  for  this 
especial  form  of  idolatry,  in  which  he  personally  was  adored 
as  a  god,  has  been  already  alluded  to. 


About  the  year  of  grace  95-6,  Clement,  bishop  of  Rome, 
wrote  his  letter  to  the  Christian  congregation  of  Corinth — 
generally  known  as  his  ist  Epistle.  From  the  days  of  Irenaeus 
downwards  this  letter  has  ever  been  considered  a  work  of  the 
highest  importance,  and  its  genuineness  as  a  writing  of  Clement 
of  Rome  has  never  been  disputed.  Its  importance  consists  in 
its  record  of  the  traditional  interpretation  of  the  apostolic 
teaching  which  was  held  in  the  great  congregation  of  the 
metropolis  from  the  first  days.  The  immediate  reasons  of  the 
Bishop  of  Rome  writing  to  the  Church  of  Corinth  were  the 
disastrous  internal  dissensions  which  were  harassing  the 
Corinthian  congregation,  disputes  which  not  only  marred  its 
influence  at  home,  but  were  productive  of  grave  scandal 
abroad,  and  which,  unless  checked,  would  seriously  affect  the 
work  of  the  Church  in  cities  far  distant  from  Corinth. 

It  was  a  gentle  loving  letter  of  remonstrance  ;  but  its  value 
to  the  Church  at  large  in  all  times  consists  in  its  being  an 
authoritative  declaration  of  the  doctrine  taught  in  the  great 
Church  in  Rome  in  the  closing  years  of  the  first  century,  some 
what  more  than  a  quarter  of  a  century  after  the  deaths  of 
SS.  Peter  and  Paul. 

Clement  in  his  Epistle  to  the  Church  of  Corinth  had  no 
intention  of  writing  a  history  of  his  Church.  The  object  of  his 
writing  was  a  very  different  one.  There  are,  however,  a  few 
notices  scattered  here  and  there  in  the  course  of  his  long  letter, 
which  bear  upon  the  subject  now  under  discussion,  i.e.,  the 
continuous  nature  of  the  persecution  under  which  the  Christian 
folk  lived  from  the  year  64  onward. 

Clement  begins  by  explaining  the  reason  of  his  delay  in 
taking  up  the  questions  which  vexed  the  Corinthian  congrega 
tion.  "  By  reason  of  the  sudden  and  repeated  calamities 


which  are  befalling  us,  we  consider,  brethren,  we  have  been 
somewhat  tardy  in  giving  heed  to  the  matters  of  dispute  that 
have  arisen  among  you,  dearly  beloved"  (/  Ep.  i). 

The  next  allusion  is  a  very  striking  one.  "  But  to  pass 
from  the  examples  of  ancient  days  "  (Clement  had  been  quoting 
from  the  Old  Testament),  "  let  as  come  to  those  champions  who 
lived  very  near  to  our  time.  Let  us  set  before  us  the  examples 
which  belong  to  our  generation  .  .  .  the  greatest  and  most 
righteous  pillars  of  the  Church  were  persecuted  and  contended 
even  unto  death.  There  was  Peter  who  .  .  .  endured  not 
one  nor  two  but  many  labours,  and  then  having  borne  his 
testimony  went  to  his  appointed  place  of  glory.  .  .  .  Paul  by  his 
example  pointed  out  the  prize  of  patient  endurance  ...  he 
departed  from  the  world,  and  went  unto  the  holy  place.  .  .  . 
Unto  these  men  of  holy  lives  was  gathered  a  vast  multitude, 
who  through  many  indignities  and  tortures  ...  set  a  brave 
example  among  ourselves. 

'  These  things,  dearly  beloved,  we  write  not  only  as 
admonishing  you, but  also  as  putting  ourselves  in  remembrance; 
for  we  are  in  the  same  lists,  and  the  same  contest  awaiteth  us  " 

('  Ep.  5-7). 

Clement's  words  here,  which  occur  in  the  middle  of  his 
argument,  indisputably  imply  that  after  the  martyr-death  of 
the  two  great  Christian  teachers  Peter  and  Paul,  a  continuous 
persecution  harried  the  congregation  (he  is  speaking  especially 
of  Rome)  all  through  his  own  generation.  "  A  vast  multitude 
of  the  elect,"  he  tells  us,  in  their  turn  suffered  martyrdom,  and 
were  joined  to  the  eminent  leaders  who  had  gone  before  them. 
When  Domitian  perished  we  know  there  was  a  temporary  lull 
in  the  storm  of  persecution.  Dion  relates  how  the  Emperor 
Nerva  dismissed  those  who  were  awaiting  their  trial  on  the 
charge  of  sacrilege.  It  was  no  doubt  in  this  very  brief  period 
of  comparative  quiet  that  Clement  had  leisure  to  attend  to 
the  troubled  affairs  at  the  Church  of  Corinth,  and  to  write  the 
important  letter  just  quoted  from. 

But  the  Roman  bishop  was  aware  that  "  the  lull  "  was 
quite  a  temporary  one,  and  was  due  only  to  the  reaction  which 
set  in  after  the  murder  of  Domitian  during  the  short  reign 
of  the  Emperor  Nerva  ;  for  he  goes  on  to  speak  (in  chap,  vi.) 


of  his  condition  and  of  the  condition  of  his  co-religionists  at 
Rome  :  "  We  are  in  the  same  lists  (with  those  who  have  been 
slain),  and  the  same  contest  awaits  us." 



Ignatius,  bishop  of  Antioch,  who  suffered  martyrdom  in 
the  days  of  Trajan,  circa  A.D.  107-10, — some  twelve  or  fifteen 
years  after  Clement  of  Rome  wrote  his  memorable  letter  to 
the  Church  of  Corinth, — is  the  next  witness  we  propose  to  caD 
in  support  of  the  contention  advanced  in  the  preceding  pages, 
namely,  that  the  persecution  began  by  Nero  in  the  year  64 
was  never  really  allowed  again  to  slumber,  but  that  with  more 
or  less  vehemence  it  continued  to  harass  the  Christian  sect  all 
through  the  reigns  of  the  Emperors  of  the  Flavian  dynasty  and 

The  Letters  of  Ignatius  were  written,  it  is  true,  a  few  years 
after  the  extinction  of  the  Flavian  House.  But  the  martyr- 
bishop  of  Antioch  was  born  about  the  year  of  grace  40,  and  he 
therefore  was  about  twenty-four  years  old  when  the  perse 
cution  of  Nero  began  ;  and  all  through  the  reigns  of  Vespasian, 
Titus,  and  Domitian  without  doubt  he  occupied  a  high  position, 
probably  in  the  Christian  congregation  at  Antioch  ;  he  there 
fore  may  well  be  cited  as  a  responsible  witness  of  the  relations 
which  existed  between  the  Christians  and  the  government  of 
the  Empire  during  the  last  thirty-five  years  of  the  first 

In  the  course  of  his  journey  from  Syria  to  Rome,  where  he 
was  condemned  to  be  exposed  to  the  wild  beasts  in  the  magni 
ficent  Flavian  amphitheatre  (the  Colosseum),  Ignatius  wrote 
seven  letters  which  have  been  preserved  to  us  ;  six  of  these  were 
addressed  to  special  Churches,  and  one  to  Polycarp,  bishop  of 

Round  these  letters  a  long  controversial  war  has  raged 
respecting  their  authenticity.  In  our  own  day  and  time, 
thanks  to  the  almost  life-long  labours  of  the  eminent  scholar- 
bishop  of  Durham  (Dr.  Lightfoot),  the  controversy  has  virtually 
been  closed.  Serious  European  scholars,  with  rare  exceptions, 


now  accept  the  seven  Epistles  (the  middle  recension,1  as 
Lightfoot  calls  it)  of  the  Ignatian  correspondence,  as  absolutely 

Ramsay  well  and  briefly  sums  up  the  purport  of  the  allu 
sions  to  the  conditions  under  which  the  Christian  sect  had 
been  and  still  was  living  during  the  long  period  of  Ignatius' 
own  personal  experience,  which  included  the  whole  duration 
of  the  sovereignty  of  the  Flavian  family,  i.e.  during  the  reign 
of  the  Emperors  Vespasian,  Titus,  and  Domitian.  These 
allusions  all  occur  in  the  martyr's  four  letters  written  in  the 
course  of  his  journey  to  Rome,  during  his  halt  at  Smyrna, 
i.e.  in  the  Epistles  to  the  Churches  of  Ephesus,  Tralles,  Mag 
nesia  and  Rome. 

He  says,  "  These  abound  in  delicate  phrases,  the  most 
explicit  of  which  may  be  quoted — The  life  of  a  Christian  is 
a  life  of  suffering ;  the  climax  of  his  life,  and  the  crowning 
honour  of  which  he  gradually  hopes  to  make  himself  worthy, 
is  martyrdom ;  but  Ignatius  is  far  from  confident  that  he  is 
worthy  of  it  (Tralles,  4).  Suffering  and  persecution  are  the 
education  of  the  Christian,  and  through  them  he  becomes  a 
true  disciple  (Eph.  iii.  Magn.  viii.  9).  The  teacher,  then,  is  the 
person  or  Church  which  has  gone  through  most  suffering,  and 
thus  shown  true  discipleship,  and  Ignatius  distinguished 
Ephesus  and  Rome  as  his  teachers.  Ignatius  is  still  in  danger, 
not  having  as  yet  completely  proved  his  steadfastness,  whereas 
Ephesus  has  been  proved  and  is  firmly  fixed,  the  implication 
being  that  it  has  been  specially  distinguished  by  the  number 
of  its  martyrs  ;  and,  moreover,  Ephesus  has  been  the  highway 
of  martyrs,  the  chief  city  of  the  province  where  many,  even 
from  other  parts,  appeared  before  the  proconsul  for  trial,  and 
was,  at  the  same  time,  the  port  whence  they  were  sent  to 
Rome.  We  read  in  the  Letter  to  Ephesus  the  somewhat 
curious  expression,  '  Ye  are  a  high  road  of  them  which  are  on 
their  way  to  die  unto  God  '  (Eph.  xii.)." 

1  So  called  from  the  position  it  holds  between  the  longer  recension  of  the 
"  ten  Letters,"  three  of  which  axe  put  aside  as  later  compilations,  and  the 
shorter  recension  of  three  Letters  which  Canon  Cureton  found  in  the  Syrian 
MS.  and  published,  believing  that  these  "  three  "  were  the  only  genuine 
Epistles  of  the  martyr-bishop. 


"  A  detailed  comparison  is  made  in  the  Letter  to  the 
Magnesians,  viii.  9,  between  the  prophets  and  the  Christians  of 
the  age.  The  prophets  were  persecuted,  and  the  Christians 
endure  persecution  patiently  in  order  to  become  true  dis 
ciples.  .  .  .  Such  is  the  principle  of  the  Christian  life  ;  that 
suffering  is  the  best  training.  .  .  .  The  impression  which  had 
been  produced  by  persecution  on  the  feelings  of  the  Christians 
towards  the  Empire  is  very  strongly  marked  in  the  Letters 
of  Ignatius.  Outside  of  the  Apocalypse,  the  irreconcilable 
opposition  between  the  State  and  Christianity  is  nowhere  more 
strongly  expressed  than  in  them,  and  there  runs  throughout 
both  groups  of  writings  the  same  identification  of  the  State 
with  the  world.  The  same  magnificent  audacity  towards  the 
State,  the  same  refusal  to  accept  what  seemed  to  men  to  be 
the  plain  facts  of  the  situation,  the  same  perfect  assurance  of 
victory,  characterize  both."  l 

With  the  exception,  however,  of  passages  in  the  Epistle  to 
the  Romans,  Ignatius'  letters  contain  no  direct  reference  to 
persecution  ;  they  are  exclusively  devoted  to  the  affairs  and 
prospects  of  the  Churches  to  which  he  was  writing,  but  the 
whole  spirit  of  the  little  collection  indicates  that  persecution 
and  suffering  were  the  common  lot  of  the  Christian  sect  in  the 
days  of  the  Flavian  Emperors  and  their  immediate  successors. 

The  letter  to  the  Roman  Church  is,  however,  quite  different 
in  its  contents  from  the  other  six.  It  is  entirely  taken  up  with 
one  single  topic — the  coming  martyrdom  of  the  writer.  For 
the  Christian,  indeed,  in  earnest,  "  martyrdom  is  the  new  birth, 
the  true  life,  the  pure  light,  the  complete  discipleship  ;  the 
martyr's  crown  is  better  than  all  the  kingdoms  of  the  earth  ; 
only  then,  when  the  martyr  sets  to  the  world,  will  he  rise  to 
God.  Crowned  by  martyrdom,  his  life  becomes  an  utterance 
of  God." 

This  fervid,  passionate — if  somewhat  exaggerated — picture 
of  martyrdom  would  convey  little  meaning  to  the  Roman 
congregations  had  not  such  scenes  as  that  depicted  by  Ignatius 
been  of  common  occurrence  in  Rome.  Its  reception,  however, 
shows  how  well  it  was  understood  by  those  to  whom  the 
burning  words  of  the  martyr-bishop  were  addressed.  His 

1  Prof.  Ramsay,  The  Church  in  the  Roman  Empire,  chap.  xiii. 


letters  were  most  highly  prized  in  very  early  days,  but  this 
special  Epistle  to  the  Roman  Church  from  the  beginning 
enjoyed  a  wider  popularity  than  the  others.  Its  details  and 
teaching  were  absolutely  unique.  It  appears  to  have  been 
circulated  apart  from  the  other  six,  sometimes  alone,  some 
times  attached  to  the  story  of  the  martyrdom  for  which 
Ignatius  so  longed. 

Two  or  three  references  in  this  letter  deserve  to  be  noted 
as  bearing  especially  on  the  question  of  the  sleepless  nature 
of  the  persecution  endured  by  the  sect. 

Epistle  to  Romans,  3.  Bishop  Lightfoot  well  paraphrases 
this  passage,  thus : 

"  Do  not,"  writes  Ignatius,  urging  the  Roman  Church  not 
to  take  any  step  which  might  hinder  his  anticipated  death  in 
the  arena,  "  depart  from  your  true  character ;  you  have 
hitherto  sped  the  martyrs  forward  to  victory  ;  do  not  now 
interpose  and  rob  me  of  my  crown."  Rome  had  hitherto 
been  the  chief  arena  of  martyrdom  ;  the  Roman  brethren 
had  cheered  on  many  a  dying  Christian  hero  in  his  glorious 

In  the  Epistle  to  Romans,  5,  we  come  upon  the  following 
curious  statement  concerning  the  arena  wild  beasts  to  which 
he  was  condemned  :  "  May  I  have  joy  of  the  beasts  that  have 
been  prepared  for  me  ;  and  I  pray  that  I  may  find  them 
ready,  nay,  I  will  entice  them  that  they  may  devour  me 
quickly,  not  as  they  have  done  to  some,  refusing  to  touch 
them  through  fear  ;  yea,  though  of  themselves  they  should 
not  be  willing  while  I  am  ready,  I  myself  will  force  them 
to  it." 

This  refusal  of  the  wild  beasts  to  touch  their  intended 
victims  is  by  no  means  an  uncommon  incident  in  early 
martyrology.  The  capricious  conduct  of  beasts  suddenly 
released  from  confinement  and  darkness,  and  brought  into 
the  bright  light  of  the  amphitheatre,  with  the  dense  crowds  of 
spectators  all  around  shouting  applause  or  execration,  is 
quite  natural.  It  is  by  no  means  necessary  to  impart  the 
miraculous  into  all  these  stories,  many  of  them  absolutely 
authentic.  Still  that  the  Most  High  did  at  times  close  the 
mouths  of  the  "  wild  "  is  quite  credible.  The  strange,  mys- 

176          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

terious  power  often  exercised  by  saintly  men  and  women  ovei 
furred  and  feathered  untamed  creatures  is  a  well-known  fact, 
and  has  been  more  than  once  the  subject  of  discussion.1  Such 
an  allusion,  however,  to  the  occasional  conduct  of  the  wild 
creatures  in  the  arena  occurring  in  the  midst  of  the  writer's 
arguments,  plainly  shows  that  the  spectacle  of  terrible  massacres 
of  Christian  folk  in  the  arena,  where  they  were  exposed  to  wild 
beasts,  was  no  uncommon  feature  in  Roman  life. 

The  grim  catalogue  of  tortures  which  the  heroic  martyr 
enumerates  in  the  same  chapter  of  the  Roman  Epistle,  com 
pleted  the  awful  picture  of  the  sufferings  of  brave  Christian 
confessors,  sufferings  which  the  Roman  citizens  had  no  doubt 
for  many  past  years  often  gazed  at. 

1  See  Part  I.  section  i,chap.  iii.  in  the  author's  work,  The  Golden  Age  of 
the  Church,  entitled,  "  The  Monks  and  the  Animal  World,"  where  this  interest 
ing  question  has  been  discussed  at  some  length,  and  various  examples  are 



IN  the  second  group  of  quotations  from  ancient  authorities 
must  be  placed  the  very  important  notice  of  the  per 
secution  in  the  days  of  Trajan,  contained  in  the  well- 
known  correspondence  of  Pliny  and  the  Emperor.  This  has 
been  already  discussed  at  some  length. 

It  will  be  sufficient l  here  briefly  to  refer  to  the  treatment 
of  Christians  whom  Pliny  found  in  his  province  of  Bithynia 
not  only  in  the  towns  but  in  the  country  villages,  and  to  the 
influence  which  these  Christians  evidently  exercised  on  the 
life  of  the  province. 

These  Christians,  with  the  exception  of  those  who  claimed 
to  be  citizens  of  Rome — who  were  sent  to  the  capital  for 
trial — were  after  the  third  examination,  if  they  still  continued 
contumacious,  condemned  and  put  to  death  on  the  authority 
of  the  governor  ("  perseverantes  duci  (ad  mortem)  jussi  "). 

This  is  the  only  heathen  authority2  quoted  here,  but  its 
extreme  importance  in  this  inquiry  into  the  condition  of 
Christians  in  the  Roman  Empire  in  the  days  of  Trajan  and 
earlier  will  justify  its  insertion. 


The  author  of  this  very  early  Christian  writing  is  unknown, 
and  of  the  Diognetus  to  whom  the  letter  is  addressed  we  have 

1  The  history,  contents,  and  authenticity  of  this  most  weighty  reference  has 
been  already  discussed  in  all  its  bearings  (see  above,  pp.  45-62). 

2  The  well-known  reference  of  Tacitus  to  the  persecution  of  Nero  has  been 
referred  to  (see  p.  103). 

12  J77 

178         THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

no  knowledge.  But  the  short  writing  in  question  is  interesting 
and  even  eloquent,  and  its  date  can  be  ascertained  with  fair 
certainty  from  expressions  contained  in  the  letter.  Christi 
anity,  when  the  writing  was  put  out,  was  a  new  thing  in  the 
world — this  is  several  times  noticed  in  the  letter.1 

The  following  notable  references  to  persecution  occur  : 
"  Christians  love  all  men,  and  are  persecuted  by  all ;  they 
are  unknown  and  (yet)  condemned  ;  they  are  put  to  death  .  .  . 
they  are  in  want  of  all  things,  and  yet  abound  in  all ;  they  are 
dishonoured,  and  yet  in  their  very  dishonour  they  are  glorified  ; 
they  are  evil  spoken  of,  and  yet  are  justified  ;  they  are  reviled 
and  bless  ;  they  are  insulted  and  yet  repay  the  insult  with 
honour  ;  they  do  good,  yet  are  punished  as  evil-doers  ;  when 
punished  they  rejoice  "  (Letter  to  Diognetus,  chap.  v.). 

"  Do  you  not  see  them  (the  Christians)  exposed  to  wild 
beasts,  that  they  may  be  persuaded  to  deny  the  Lord,  and 
yet  not  overcome  ?  Do  you  not  see  that  the  more  of  them 
that  are  punished,  the  greater  become  the  numbers  of  the 
rest  "  (Letter  to  Diognetus,  chap.  vii.). 

'  Then  shalt  thou  both  love  and  admire  those  that  suffer 
punishment  because  they  will  not  deny  God." 

'  Then  shalt  thou  admire  those  who  for  righteousness' 
sake  endure  the  fire  which  is  but  for  a  moment,  and  shalt  count 
them  happy,  when  thou  shalt  know  (the  nature  of)  that  fire  " 
(Letter  to  Diognetus,  chap.  x.). 


Hernias,  the  author  or  compiler  of  the  once  famous  Shep 
herd  (the  Pastor)  in  a  very  ancient  tradition  was  identified 
with  the  Hermas  mentioned  by  S.  Paul  (Rom.  xvi.  14).  This 
identification  was  suggested  by  Origen  in  the  middle  of  the 
third  century.  The  Muratorian  Canon  gives  as  the  approxi- 

1  The  date  circa  A.D.  117  is  suggested  by  Bishop  Westcott,  and  Bishop 
Lightfoot  generally  agrees  in  placing  the  writing  about  this  time.  Some 
would  even  place  its  composition  in  the  very  earty  years  of  the  second  century. 
The  last  two  chapters,  xi.-xii.,  are  fragmentary,  and  apparently  were  written 
n  little— but  very  little — later. 


mate  date  of  its  composition  circa  A.D.  140,  and  suggests 
another  author.  Modern  scholarship,  ho  we  ver,  considers  that 
the  work  in  question  passed  througrT  several  redactions,  the 
first  belonging  to  a  yet  earlier  date.  If  this,  as  is  probable, 
be  the  case,  then  certainly  considerable  portions  of  the  little 
volume  of  the  "  Shepherd  "  belong  to  the  reign  of  Trajan, 
and  possibly  to  the  period  of  the  episcopate  of  Clement  of 

But  whether  we  adopt  for  the  composition  of  the  writing 
the  year  140,  or  thereabouts,  or  with  Duchesne  and  Harnack 
the  earlier  date  of  portions  of  the  writing  (the  last  years  of  the 
first  century),  there  is  no  doubt  whatever  that  the  work 
containing  the  "  Visions,"  "  Commandments,"  and  "  Parables  " 
of  Hermas  (generally  known  as  the  Shepherd)  was  accepted  by 
the  Christians  of  the  second  century  as  a  treatise  of  very  high 
authority.  It  was  publicly  read  in  the  congregations  along 
with  the  canonical  (to  use  a  later  term)  Scriptures,  without, 
however,  being  put  on  a  level  with  these  sacred  writings. 

Gradually  though  we  find  its  authority  diminishing, 
sterner  spirits,  like  Tertullian,  misliking  its  gentle  and  com 
passionate  directions  in  the  case  of  the  reconciliation  of  sinners, 
theologians  too,  who  in  the  first  years  were  less  positive, 
less  precise  in  their  dogmatical  definitions,  soon  began  to 
see  how  speculative  and  even  wild  were  some  of  the  statements 
and  definitions  of  the  Persons  in  the  Godhead.  Thus  the  work 
became  less  and  less  an  important  piece  in  the  arsenal  of 
Christian  theology.  S.  Jerome,  for  instance,  openly  flouts  it 
when  he  writes  of  the  Shepherd  as  "  Liber  ille  apocryphus 
stultitiae  condemnandus."  Others,  however,  of  the  highest 
authority  in  the  Church  in  the  third  and  fourth  centuries, 
such  as  Clement  of  Alexandria,  Origen,  and  Athanasius,  seem 
to  have  ever  held  the  Shepherd  in  great  veneration. 

The  high  place  it  held  in  the  early  Church  is  shown  by 
its  appearing  in  that  most  ancient  MS.  of  the  Holy  Scrip- 

1  So  Harnack  ;  Duchesne,  in  his  Histoire  ancienne  de  l'£glise,  vol.  i.  p.  225 
(published  1908),  generally  adopts  Harnack's  conclusions  respecting  the  early 
date.  Lightfoot  (vol.  i.  p.  360,  Clement  of  Rome)  also  leans  to  the  conclusion  that 
the  Clement  of  the  Shepherd  is  the  illustrious  Bishop  of  Rome.  This  would 
postulate  the  earlier  date  for  parts  of  the  work. 


tures  the  Codex  Sinaiticus,  where   it  is  honoured  by  being 
placed  at  the  end  of  the  canonical  writings. 

But  it  is  as  an  historical  piece  of  evidence  respecting  the 
continued  persecutions  which  vexed  the  early  Church,  without 
any  period  of  cessation,  that  the  work  is  quoted  here.  The 
Shepherd  is  full  of  references  to  this  state  of  things.  Renan 
L'6glise  Chretienne)  describes  this  book  in  his  picturesque 
vivid  imagery  as  "  issuing  from  a  bath  of  blood."  Lightfoot 
speaks  of  it  as  "  haunted  in  large  parts  by  this  ghastly  spectre 
of  persecution."  The  writer  specially  alludes  to  this  harrying 
of  the  Christian  sect  in  the  past,  and  says  that  it  was  likely 
to  continue  in  the  future. 

Hermas,  in  his  unique  and  interesting  work,  says  nothing 
about  the  Jewish  foes  of  the  Church,  and  his  allusions  to 
the  pagans  around  him  are  very  few.  The  work  may  be 
said  to  deal  exclusively  with  the  inner  life  of  the  Roman  congre 
gations.  On  the  whole  he  pictures  the  life  led  by  the  followers 
of  Jesus  as  fairly  satisfactory  and  good,  harassed  though  it 
was,  but  there  were  many  things  constantly  appearing  and 
reappearing  in  that  life  which  needed  amendment.  He  dwells 
with  more  or  less  detail  on  differences,  quarrels,  bitterness, 
which  arose  among  themselves,  and  which  too  often  dis 
figured  and  marred  the  beautiful  Christian  ideals. 

But  after  all,  in  Hermas'  evidently  faithful  and  accurate 
pictures  of  the  Christian  congregations  in  Rome,  the  point 
he  dwells  on  with  the  greatest  emphasis  is  their  behaviour 
in  those  ever-recurring  trials  of  their  faith  to  which  they 
were  constantly  exposed  through  the  sleepless,  restless  ill-will  of 
the  Government.  Whether  the  writing  dates  from  circa  140, 
when  Hadrian  was  reigning,  or  in  part  from  the  last  years  of 
the  first  century  in  the  days  of  Trajan,  it  is  evident  that  the 
position  of  the  Christian  community  was  ever  most  precarious. 

The  rescripts  of  Trajan  and  Hadrian  somewhat  softened 
the  stern  measures,  but  before  and  even  after  these  humane 
and  statesmanlike  regulations  the  position  of  the  Christian 
was  indeed  a  trying  and  painful  one.  For  even  after  the 
issuing  of  the  rescripts  in  question  the  sword  ever  hung  over 
their  heads,  and  the  slender  thread  upon  which  it  hung  was 
often  snapped. 


Perpetually  were  the  Christians  haled  before  the  magis 
trate.  They  had  stern  searching  questions  to  answer  ;  easily 
was  the  capital  crime  of  professing  the  unlawful  cult  daily 
brought  home  to  them.  They  were  asked  r  Were  they  willing 
to  renounce  it,  and  in  place  of  it  adore  the  gods  of  the  pagans  ? 
Would  they  throw  a  few  grains  of  incense,  as  a  token  of  their 
recantation,  on  the  altars  of  Rome  and  Augustus  ?  If  they 
would  do  this  very  little  thing,  as  it  seemed,  at  once  they 
were  released  ;  but  if  they  refused,  then  death,  in  some  form 
or  other,  was  their  speedy  and  inevitable  doom. 

Hermas  tells  us  a  good  deal  of  what  was  happening  in 
the  Roman  congregations  in  the  matter  of  persecution  for 
the  Name's  sake.  The  harrying  of  Christians,  when  the 
author  of  the  Shepherd  was  writing,  must  have  been  con 
tinuous,  for  he  sadly  speaks  of  those  who  were  frequently 
yielding  to  pressure.  Apostasy  in  the  Christian  ranks  was, 
alas  !  not  an  unknown  scandal.  Some,  he  tells  us,  simply 
renounced  their  faith ;  others,  terrified,  went  further  and 
publicly  blasphemed  the  Name.  Some  were  positively  base 
enough  to  betray  and  denounce  their  brethren  in  the  Faith. 

But,  on  the  other  hand,  Hermas  tells  us  how  the  Church 
numbered  many  martyrs.  All,  he  says,  were  not  on  a  level 
even  here,  for  some  trembled  at  first  and  flinched,  and  only 
witnessed  a  good  confession  at  the  last,  probably  when  about 
to  cense  the  idol  altar.  There  were  some  though,  said  our 
writer,  whose  heart  never  for  an  instant  failed  them. 

Yet,  on  the  whole,  this  stern  though  kindly  censor  of  the 
Christian  Church  was  not  dissatisfied  with  the  life  generally 
led  by  the  congregations  of  believers  in  Jesus  ;  he  seems  to 
recognise  to  the  full  the  sorely  tempted  lives — tempted  not 
only  by  the  imminent  danger  which  the  confession  of  the 
Name  entailed — though  he  dwells  mostly  on  this  ever-present 
peril — but  also  by  the  smaller  lures  with  which  all  human 
existence  is  inextricably  bound  up  :  business  matters,  society 
obligations,  the  old  jealousy  and  envy  which  ever  exist 
between  the  rich  and  the  poor. 

"  Le  livre  d'Hermas,"  observes  Duchesne,  "  est  un  vaste 
examen  de  conscience  de  Fliglise  Romaine."  The  writer 
spares  none  in  his  severe  yet  kindly  criticism  ;  the  priests  and 


deacons  of  the  congregations  are  among  the  classes  with  whom 
he  finds  grave  fault.  In  spite,  however,  of  his  earnest  and 
touching  remonstrances  with  those  who,  in  hours  of  trial  and 
persecution,  in  the  many  daily  temptations  of  common  life, 
had  left  their  first  love,  Hermas  acknowledges  that  in  the 
Church  of  Rome  the  numbers  of  the  just  and  upright  are 
greater  than  the  numbers  of  those  who  have  fallen  away.  It 
is  true  that  he  sternly  rebukes  the  unfaithful  priests  and 
deacons  and  other  members  of  the  hierarchy,  but  he  recognizes 
here,  too,  men  worthy  of  the  highest  commendation  ;  he  dwells 
on  their  love,  their  charity,  their  hospitality,  and  even  assigns 
to  these  faithful  ministers  of  religion  a  place  among  the 
glorious  company  of  apostles. 

The  general  impression  which  a  careful  study  of  Hermas' 
portraiture  of  the  Christian  congregations  in  Rome  leaves  on 
the  reader's  mind  in  those  far-back  days,  roughly  from  the 
days  of  Nero  to  the  times  of  Trajan  and  even  Hadrian,  is 
that  that  great  and  sorely  tried  Church  was  far  from  being 
composed  entirely  of  saints,  but  that  the  righteous  and  God 
fearing — the  men  and  women  who  had  washed  their  robes  in 
the  blood  of  the  Lamb,  as  true  disciples  of  the  Master,  were 
after  all  decidedly  in  the  majority. 

Closely  connected  with  his  picture  of  the  sins  and  errors 
of  the  Roman  Christians — sins  largely  connected  with  the 
falling  away  of  many  in  the  dread  hour  of  persecution — is 
his  assurance  that  these  sins  are  capable  of  pardon  here, 
even  if  committed  after  baptism.  No  sin,  no  falling  away, 
in  Hermas'  teaching  is  inexpiable  ;  no  truly  penitent  one  is 
ever  to  be  excluded  from  pardon  and  reconciliation.  It  was 
this  generous  and  broad  view  of  the  goodness  and  the  divine 
pity  of  God  that  was  so  misliked  by  the  stern  and  pitiless 
teachers  of  the  powerful  school  to  which  men  like  Tertullian 
belonged,  a  school  which  soon  arose  in  the  Church.  Of  the 
genuine  written  remains  of  the  earliest  period  we  have 
nothing  comparable  to  the  Shepherd  of  Hermas,  when 
we  look  for  a  picture  of  the  inner  life  of  the  Church  of  Rome 
in  that  far-back  time  when  the  echoes  of  the  voices  of  the 
disciples  who  had  been  with  Jesus  were  still  ringing  in 
men's  ears. 


As  a  dogmatic  teacher  the  writer  of  the  Shepherd  is  of 
little  or  no  value  ;  Hermas  emphatically  was  no  theologian, 
but  he  was  a  close  and  evidently  an  accurate  observer  of  men 
and  things.  Earnest  and  devout,  while  sadly  deploring  the 
weakness  in  the  hour  of  trial  of  some,  the  failure  of  others  in 
the  ordinary  course  of  things  to  keep  on  the  narrow  way  leading 
to  life — he  rejoices  with  an  unfeigned  joy  over  the  many  noble 
men  and  women  who,  in  all  their  sore  danger  and  temptation, 
kept  the  Faith  untarnished  and  undimmed. 

Hermas  of  the  Shepherd  is  a  witness,  to  whose  voice 
none  can  refuse  to  listen,  of  the  sore  and  sleepless  persecution 
which,  from  the  days  of  Nero,  with  rare  and  brief  pauses  ever 
harassed  the  Christian  sect  in  Rome.1 

Composed  as  this  book  evidently  was  directly  under  the 
veiled  shadow  of  persecution — a  state  of  things  which  colours 
well-nigh  every  page  of  the  writing — it  is  difficult  out  of  so 
many  testimonies  here  to  select  any  special  passage  telling 
of  this  perpetual  harrying  of  the  sect ;  a  very  few  passages 
will  be  quoted  where  this  restless  state  of  persecution  is  painted 
with  vivid  colouring. 

"  Happy  ye  who  endure  the  great  tribulation  that  is  coming 
on,  and  happy  they  who  shall  not  deny  their  own  life  " 
(Hermas,  Vision,  ii.  2). 

"  The  place  to  the  right  is  for  others  who  have  pleased  God, 
and  have  suffered  for  His  Name's  sake  "  (Hermas,  Vision,  iii.  i). 

"  What  have  they  borne  ?  Listen  :  Scourges,  prisons,  great 
tribulations,  crosses,  wild  beasts  for  God's  Name's  sake — to 
them  is  assigned  the  division  of  sanctification  on  the  right  hand 
— to  every  one  who  shall  suffer  for  God's  Name  "  (Hermas, 
Vision,  iii.  2). 

"  But  who  are  the  stones  that  were  dragged  from  the  depths 
and  which  were  laid  in  the  building,  and  fitted  in  with  the  rest  of 
the  stones  before  placed  in  the  Tower  ?  These  are  they  who 
suffered  for  the  Lord's  sake  "  (Hennas,  Vision,  iii.  5). 

1  What  Hermas  wrote  specially  of  Rome,  no  doubt  in  a  very  large  degree 
was  the  state  of  things  in  the  provinces  of  the  Empire.  This  is  clear  from 
the  great  and  general  popularity  enjoyed  by  the  Shepherd  in  the  first  two 
centuries.  The  picture  of  Christian  life  in  Rome  was  recognized  as  an  accurate 
picture  of  their  own  life,  by  the  citizens  of  Corinth  and  Alexandria,  by  the 
dwellers  in  Ephesus  and  Antioch. 

184          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

"  They  without  hesitation  repented,  and  practise  all  virtue 
and  righteousness,  and  some  of  them  even  suffered,  being 
willingly  put  to  death,"-  "  Of  all  these,  therefore,  the  dwelling 
shall  be  in  the  Tower." 

"  All  who  were  brought  before  the  authorities  and  were 
examined,  and  did  not  deny,  but  suffered  gladly,  these  are  held 
in  great  honour  with  God  "  (Hermas,  Parables,  viii.  10). 

"  All  who  once  suffered  for  the  name  of  the  Lord  are 
honourable  before  God,  and  of  all  these  the  sins  were  remitted, 
because  they  suffer  for  the  Name  of  the  Son  of  God  "  (Hermas, 
Parables,  viii.  20). 

"  And  ye  who  suffer  for  His  Name  ought  to  glorify  God, 
because  He  deemed  you  worthy  to  bear  His  Name,  that  all 
your  sores  might  be  healed  "  (Hermas,  Parables,  viii.  28). 


The  above  dates  roughly  embrace  the  period  of  Justin's 
literary  activity.  He  was,  however,  born  not  later  than 
circa  A.D.  114,  probably  several  years  before.  We  know  little 
of  his  early  history.  He  was  a  diligent  student  and  a  thinker, 
and  his  works  are  amongst  the  most  important  that  have  come 
down  to  us  from  the  first  sixty  years  of  the  second  century. 
Three  writings  of  his  are  extant  of  the  genuineness  of  which 
there  is  no  doubt.  Two  Apologies  and  The  Dialogue 
with  the  Jew  Trvpho.  The  first  Apology  and  the  Dialogue 
are  works  of  considerable  size.  There  are  besides  other 
writings  which  bear  his  name,  but  the  authenticity  of  these  is 

Originally  a  pagan,  it  seems  that  he  became  a  Christian 
owing  to  the  strong  impression  made  upon  him  by  the  fearless 
ness  which  the  disciples  of  the  New  Sect  showed  in  the  presence 
of  death.  He  was  also  deeply  persuaded  of  the  grandeur  and 
truth  of  the  old  Testament  Scriptures.  In  the  end,  while  the 
Emperor  Marcus  Antoninus  was  reigning,  he  received  the 
Martyr's  crown  he  had  for  so  many  years  passionately  admired 
and  coveted.  This  was  about  the  year  165. 

His  three  authentic  writings  contain  numberless  references 
to  the  persecutions  endured  by  the  followers  of  the  Name,  and 


countless  allusions  to  the  state  of  perpetual  risk  and  danger  in 
which  his  co-religionists  lived  and  worked. 

We  will  cite  a  very  few  of  these,  in  which  unmistakable 
details  are  given. 

"  If  any  one  acknowledges  that  he  is  a  Christian,  you 
punish  him  on  account  of  this  confession  "  (Justin,  Apol.  i.  4). 

The  condemnation  to  death  for  the  mere  name  of  Christian 
is  often  dwelt  upon  by  our  writer  (see  such  passages  as  are 
contained  in  i  Apol.  xi.). 

"  We  may  not  lie  or  deceive  our  (official)  interrogators  ; 
we  willingly  die  confessing  Christ  "  (Justin,  Apol.  i.  39). 

"  Although  death  is  decreed  against  those  who  teach,  or 
even  confess  the  name  of  Christ,  everywhere  we  confess  it  and 
teach  it  "  (Justin,  Apol.  i.  45). 

"  They  that  believe  that  there  is  nothing  after  death  .  .  . 
they  become  our  benefactors  when  they  free  us  from  the 
sufferings  and  trials  of  this  life  ;  .  .  .  they  kill  us,  however, 
not  with  the  view  of  benefiting  us,  but  that  we  may  be  deprived 
of  life  and  joy  "  (Justin,  Apol.  i.  57). 

'  The  Gentiles  who  know  God — the  Creator  of  all  things 
through  Jesus  the  Crucified  .  .  .  patiently  await  every 
torture  and  vengeance — even  death — rather  than  worship 
idols  "  (Justin,  Dialogue  with  Trypho,  xxxv.). 

"  .  .  .  Lest  you  be  persecuted  by  the  rulers  who  .  .  . 
will  not  cease  putting  to  death  and  persecuting  those  who 
confess  the  Name  of  Christ  .  .  ."  (Justin,  Dial,  xxxix.). 

"  .  .  .  Because  we  refuse  to  sacrifice  to  those  to  whom  in 
old  times  we  used  to  sacrifice  to,  we  suffer  the  severest  penalties, 
and  rejoice  in  death,  believing  that  God  will  raise  us  up  by 
His  Christ,  and  will  make  us  incorruptible — safe — immortal  " 
(Justin,  Dial.  xlvi.). 

"  Now  it  is  plain  that  no  one  is  able  to  frighten  us  or 
subject  us  who  have  believed  in  Jesus,  .  .  .  for  it  is  manifest 
that  though  beheaded  and  crucified,  and  cast  to  wild  beasts, 
and  fire,  and  all  other  kinds  of  torture,  we  do  not  give  up  our 
confessicn  ;  but  the  more  such  things  happen,  the  more  do 
others,  and  in  ever-increasing  numbers  too,  become  believers 
and  worshippers  of  God  through  the  Name  of  Jesus  "  (Justin, 
Dial.  ex.). 

i86          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

"  And  you  yourselves  .  .  .  must  acknowledge  that  we 
who  have  been  called  by  God  through  the  contemned  and 
shameful  mystery  of  the  Cross  .  .  .  endure  all  torments  rather 
than  deny  Christ  even  by  word  "  (Justin,  Dial,  cxxxi.). 

"  For  having  put  some  to  death  on  account  of  the  false 
charges  brought  against  us,  they  also  dragged  to  the  torture 
our  servants — children — weak  women — and  by  awful  torments 
drove  them  to  admit  that  they  were  guilty  of  those  very 
actions  which  they  (the  persecutors)  openly  perpetrate, — about 
which,  however,  we  are  little  concerned,  because  none  of  these 
actions  are  really  ours.  We  have  the  ineffable  God  as  witness 
both  of  our  thoughts  and  deeds  "  (Justin,  n.  Apol.  xii.). 


Jerome  tells  us  that  Minucius  Felix  was,  before  his  con 
version  to  Christianity,  an  advocate  at  Rome.  The  dialogue, 
which  forms  the  substance  of  the  writing — a  work  of  some 
considerable  length,  is  a  supposed  argument  between  a  cul 
tured  pagan  C?ecilius  and  the  Christian  Octavius — the  writer 
Minucius  Felix  acting  as  arbiter  between  the  disputants. 
The  scene  of  the  dialogue  was  the  sea-shore  of  Ostia,  it 
closes  with  the  conversion  of  the  pagan  Coecilius,  who  is  con 
vinced  by  the  arguments  brought  forward  by  the  Christian 

The  resemblances  between  Minucius  Felix  and  the  famous 
Apology  of  Tertullian,  which  was  written  circa  A.D.-  200,  are 
most  striking — and  the  question  which  of  the  two  was  the 
plagiarist  has  long  been  before  critics.  Later  scholars,  among 
whom  Ebert,  Salmon,  Bishop  Lightfoot,  Renan,  and  Keim 
are  conspicuous,  have  conclusively  established  the  priority 
of  Minucius.  The  year  of  grace  160,  before  the  death  of 
Antoninus  Pius,  a  date  based  upon  the  internal  evidence  of  the 
writing,  is  suggested  by  Lightfoot  as  the  most  probable 
period  of  the  composition. 

Dean  Milman's  estimate  of  the  literary  excellence  of  the 
piece  is  as  follows :  "  Perhaps  no  late  work,  either  pagan  or 

1  A  more  detailed  description  of  the  famous  Dialogue  of  Minucius  Felix 
will  be  found  on  pp.  145-6. 


Christian,  reminds  us  of  the  golden  days  of  Latin  prose  so 
much  as  the  Octavius  of  Minucius  Felix  "  (Hist,  of  Christi 
anity,  book  iv.  chap.  iii.). 

The  following  striking  passages  bearing  on  the  subject  of 
the  ceaseless  persecution  to  which  the  Christians  were  sub 
jected  in  the  middle  years  of  the  second  century  are  taken 
from  the  thirty-seventh  chapter  of  the  Dialogue  : 

"  How  beautiful  before  God  is  the  spectacle  of  a  Christian 
entering  into  the  lists  with  pain,  when  he  is  matched  against 
threats  and  punishments  and  tortures ;  when,  deriding  the 
noise  of  death,  he  treads  under  foot  the  horror  of  the  public 
executioner ;  when  he  raises  up  his  liberty  in  opposition  to 
kings  and  princes,  and  yields  to  God  alone,  whose  he  is  ;  when, 
triumphant  and  a  victor,  he  tramples  upon  the  very  man  who 
has  pronounced  sentence  against  him  !  For  he  has  conquered 
who  has  won  that  for  which  he  fights.  .  .  .  But  God's 
soldier  is  neither  forsaken  in  suffering,  nor  is  he  brought  to  an 
end  by  death.  Thus  the  Christian  may  seem  to  be  miserable, 
he  cannot  really  be  found  to  be  so.  You  yourselves  extol 
unfortunate  men  to  the  skies.  Mucius  Scaevola,  for  instance, 
who,  when  he  had  failed  in  his  attempts  against  the  king, 
would  have  perished  .  .  .  had  he  not  sacrificed  his  right  hand. 
And  how  many  of  our  people  have  endured  that  not  only 
their  right  hand  but  that  their  whole  body  should  be  burned — 
burned  without  a  cry  of  pain — though  they  had  it  in  their 
power  to  be  freed  ! 

..."  Do  I  compare  Christian  men  with  Mucius  or  even 
with  Regulus  ?  Yet  boys  and  young  girls  mock  at  crosses 
and  tortures,  wild  beasts  and  all  the  terrors  of  punishment 
— with  all  the  inspired  patience  of  suffering "  (Minucius 
Felix,  cap.  xxxvii.). 


Very  little  is  known  of  this  Melito  ;  he  was  evidently  a 
somewhat  voluminous  writer,  but  only  few  fragments  remain 
of  the  long  list  of  his  works  which  Eusebius  has  given  (H.E. 
Book  vi.  26).  In  one  of  these  fragments  of  a  discourse,  ad 
dressed  to  the  Emperor  Marcus,  the  following  passage  occurs  : 

188          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

"  What  indeed  never  before  happened,  the  race  of  the 
pious  (the  Christians)  is  now  persecuted,  driven  about  in 
Asia  by  new  and  strange  decrees.  For  the  shameless  in 
formers  are  those  that  covet  the  goods  of  others,  and,  making 
use  of  the  edicts  of  the  Emperors,  openly  commit  robbery, 
night  and  day,  plundering  those  (the  Christians)  who  are 
guilty  of  no  crime.  .  .  .  And  if  these  things  are  carried  out 
by  your  commands  (i.e.  of  the  Emperor  Marcus),  let  them  at 
least  be  done  in  a  legal  form.  .  .  .  We  (Christians)  indeed 
bear  joyfully  the  guerdon  of  such  a  death — still,  we  only 
urge  upon  you  this  petition,  that  you  yourself  would  first 
inquire  into  the  persons  of  these  plotters  of  mischief,  and 
judge  whether  they  themselves  deserve  death  and  punish 
ment,  or  safety  and  immunity.  .  .  .  We  entreat  you  not  to 
forget  us  in  the  midst  of  this  lawless  plunder  of  the  populace  " 
(Melito  of  Sardis,  Fragment  quoted  by  Eusebius,  H.E.  iv.  26). 


It  is  singular  how  little  information  has  come  down  to  us 
concerning  this  Athenian  philosopher  who  had  become  a 
Christian.  It  is  believed  he  wrote  much,  but  the  very  names 
of  his  works  have  perished.  The  only  fragments  of  Athena- 
goras  that  remain  are  his  Apology,  or  Embassy,  as  he  styles  it, 
addressed  to  the  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius  and  his  son  Corn- 
modus,  and  a  treatise  on  The  Resurrection. 

Philip  of  Side l  gives  one  interesting  detail  respecting 
this  little  known  early  writer.  He  tells  us  he  was  converted 
to  Christianity  by  the  Scriptures,  which  he  was  studying 
with  the  view  of  controverting  them. 

The  following  passage  is  from  the  Apology  or  Embassy  of 

He  is  addressing  the  Emperors  Marcus  and  Commodus. 
and  then  writes  :  "  Why  is  the  mere  name  (of  Christian)  hate 
ful  to  you  ?     Names  (surely)  are  not  deserving  of  hatred.     It 
is  the  wrongful  act  that  calls  for  penalty  and  punishment. 
But,  for  us  who  are  called  Christians  you  have  had  no  care, 

1  Side  was  a  maritime  town  of  Pamphylia.  Philip  wrote  in  the  early 
part  of  the  fifth  century. 


though  we  commit  no  wrong.  .  .  .  You  allow  us  to  be  har 
assed — plundered — persecuted — the  people  warring  with  us 
for  our  name  alone.  .  .  .  We  suffer  unjustly  contrary  to 
the  law.  .  .  .  We  beseech  you  to  have  some  care  for  us,  that 
we  may  cease  at  length  to  be  slaughtered  at  the  instigation 
of  false  accusers.  .  .  .  When  we  have  surrendered  our  goods, 
they  still  plot  against  our  very  bodies  and  souls — levelling 
against  us  many  charges  of  crimes  of  which  we  are  guiltless 
even  in  thought  "  (chap.  i.). 

"  .  .  .  If  indeed  any  one  can  convict  us  of  a  crime  either 
small  or  great,  we  do  not  plead  to  be  let  off  punishment ; 
we  are  then  prepared  to  suffer  the  sharpest  and  most  merciless 
chastisement,  but  if  the  accusation  is  merely  concerned  with 
our  Name  .  .  .  then,  O  illustrious  sovereigns,  it  is  your 
part  to  free  us  by  law  from  their  evil  treatment.  .  .  .  What 
therefore  is  granted  as  the  common  right  of  all,  we  too  claim 
for  ourselves,  that  we  shall  not  be  hated  and  punished  merely 
because  we  are  called  Christians  "  (Athenagoras,  chap.  ii.). 

The  above  quotations  from  Athenagoras  show  very  clearly 
on  what  apparently  superficial  grounds  the  Christians  were 
bitterly  persecuted  and  harassed  in  every  conceivable  fashion 
— solely  because  they  were  Christians.  The  nomen  ipsum,  the 
bare  "  name,"  was  a  sufficient  ground  of  condemnation  in  the 
reign  of  the  great  and  good  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius  Antoninus. 


Theophilus,  according  to  Eusebius,  H.E.  iv.  20-24,  was 
sixth  Bishop  of  the  Syrian  Antioch  in  succession  (so  Eusebius). 
He  became  bishop  in  the  year  168,  when  Marcus  was  reigning. 
Nothing  is  known  of  his  life  save  that  he  was  born  a  pagan. 
He  was  the  author  of  several  works — including  Commentaries 
on  the  Gospels  and  on  the  Book  of  Proverbs,  and  of  a  writing 
against  Marcion,  etc.  But  none  of  these  have  come  down 
to  us.  All  we  possess  are  the  three  books  containing  "  the 
Elements  of  the  Faith,"  addressed  to  his  friend  Autolycus. 
The  quoted  passage  is  from  the  third  of  these  books.  His 
arguments  in  many  respects  are  similar  to  those  advanced  by 
Justin  Martyr. 


"  They  persecute,  and  do  daily  persecute,  those  who 
worship  Him  (the  only  God).  ...  Of  those  (i.e.  of  the 
Christians)  who  are  zealous  in  the  pursuit  of  virtue,  and 
practise  a  holy  life,  some  they  stone,  some  they  put  to  death, 
and  up  to  the  present  time  they  subject  them  to  cruel  torture." 

TERTULLIAN,  CIRCA  A.D.  195-211 

To  complete  the  chain  of  testimony  supplied  by  con 
temporary  writers  to  the  perpetual  state  of  unrest,  an  unrest 
ever  passing  into  active  persecution,  which  was  the  lot  of 
the  Christian  sect  from  A.D.  64,  the  date  of  the  first  formal 
harrying  of  Nero,  to  A.D.  180,  the  date  of  the  death  of  the 
Emperor  Marcus,  the  period  here  under  consideration — the 
important  witness  of  Tertullian  is  added.  The  years  of  his 
literary  activity  stretch  roughly  from  A.D.  195-211.  But 
although  the  dates  of  his  works  range  from  some  fifteen  to 
twenty  years  after  the  death  of  Marcus,  it  is  certain  that  his 
general  view  of  the  condition  of  Christians  would  include  at 
least  the  latter  years  of  the  period  we  are  specially  dwelling  on. 

His  treatises,  which  especially  relate  to  Christian  and 
church  life  and  to  ecclesiastical  discipline,  are  coloured  with 
references  to  this  condition  of  persecution  under  which  the 
Christian  sect  evidently  lived.  The  very  numerous  references 
in  question  are  introduced  casually  as  though  the  dangerous 
conditions  were  a  matter  of  course,  were  inescapable,  and 
entered  into  the  ordinary  life  of  the  sect. 

We  cite  a  very  few  of  these  as  specimen  instances  of 
Tertullian's  conception  of  the  life  so  environed  with  deadly 

The  whole  of  the  short  and  interesting  address  to  "  Blessed 
Martyrs  designate  "  in  this  connection  should  be  read  here. 

'  We  are  daily  beset  by  foes,  we  are  daily  betrayed,  we 
are  oftentimes  surprised  in  our  meetings  and  congregations  " 
(Tertullian,  Apol.  7). 

"  Without  ceasing  for  our  Emperors  we  offer  prayer  .  .  . 
we  ask  for  whatever,  as  man  or  Caesar,  an  Emperor  could  wish. 
.  .  .  With  our  hands  thus  stretched  out  and  up  to  God,  rend 
us  with  your  iron  claws,  hang  us  up  on  crosses,  wrap  us  in 


flames,  take  our  heads  from  us  with  the  sword,  let  loose  the 
wild  beasts  on  us  ;  the  very  attitude  of  a  Christian  praying 
is  one  of  preparation  for  its  punishment.  Let  this,  good 
rulers,  be  your  work,  wring  from  us  the  soul  beseeching  God 
on  the  Emperor's  behalf.  Upon  the  truth  of  God,  and  devo 
tion  to  His  Name,  put  the  brand  of  crime "  (Tertullian, 
Apol.  30). 

"  Christians  alone  are  forbidden  to  say  anything  in  their 
defence  to  help  the  judge  to  a  righteous  decision  ;  all  that 
is  cared  about  is  getting  what  the  public  hatred  demands — 
the  confession  of  the  Name  "  (Tertullian,  Apol.  2). 

Constantly  Tertullian  refers  to  the  great  offence  in  the 
Christians  simply  lying  in  "  the  Name."  "  Your  sentences, 
however,  are  only  to  this  effect,  viz.  :  that  one  has  confessed 
himself  to  be  a  Christian,"  occurs  frequently  (Tertullian, 
Ad  Nationes,  8). 




WE  read  in  the  pathetic  and  interesting  study  DC 
Laude  Martyrii  (On  the  Praise  of  Martyrdom)  by 
an  anonymous  writer — a  study  which  usually  follows 
the  works  of  S.  Cyprian — how  some  Roman  officials  who  were 
assisting  in  the  torture  of  a  dying  Christian  saint  said  one  to 
another  :  "  This  is  really  marvellous,  this  power  of  disregard 
ing  pain  and  agony  !  Nothing  seems  to  move  him  ;  he  has 
a  wife  and  little  ones,  but  even  the  love  of  these  touches 
him  not.  What  is  the  secret  of  his  strange  power  ?  It  can 
surely  be  no  imaginary  faith  which  enables  him  thus  to 
welcome  such  suffering — such  a  death  !  " 

The  moral  effect  of  this  endurance — of  this  serene  accept 
ance  of  torture  and  death — both  on  persecutors  and  persecuted, 
was  no  doubt  very  great.  It  has  probably  been  underrated. 
What  we  have  just  quoted  from  the  treatise  De  Laude 
Martyrii,  i.e.  the  testimony  to  what  must  have  happened  many 
thousand  times — viz.  :  how  it  struck  the  officials  who  were 
carrying  out  the  stern  law  of  Rome — was  repeated  in  our  own 
day  and  time  by  one  of  our  most  serious  historians  ;  one  not 
likely  by  any  means  to  have  been  carried  away  by  religious 
enthusiasm.  Lecky,  in  his  scrupulously  fair  but  at  the 
same  time  cold  and  passionless  chapter  on  early  Christian 
persecutions,  closes  his  review  of  the  period  with  the  following 
remarkable  words  :  "  For  the  love  of  their  Divine  Master, 
for  the  cause  they  believed  to  be  true,  men,  and  even  weak 
girls,  endured  these  things  (he  has  been  detailing  some  of  the 
well-known  tortures  and  deaths  of  the  early  Christian  believers) 
13  193 

i94          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

without  flinching,  when  one  word  would  have  freed  them 
from  their  sufferings.  No  opinion  we  may  form  of  the  pro 
ceedings  of  priests  in  a  later  age  should  impair  the  reverence 
with  which  we  bend  before  the  martyr's  tomb."  l 

Now,  the  more  thoughtful  of  the  pagan  rulers  who  dreaded 
with  a  nameless  dread  the  overthrow  of  the  idol-cult,  the 
preservation  of  which  they  believed  was  indissolubly  linked 
with  the  maintenance  of  the  great  Roman  Empire  they  loved 
so  well,  saw  in  the  constancy  of  the  martyrs  a  great  danger 
to  which  this  idol-cult  was  exposed. 

Rulers  so  different  as  Nero  and  Domitian,  Hadrian,  Anton 
inus  Pius,  and  Marcus  Antoninus,  Severus,  Decius,  and  Dio 
cletian,  and  their  ministers,  felt  that  the  sternest  measures  of 
repression  of  the  new  Faith  were  absolutely  necessary  if  they 
would  stem  the  fast  advancing  and  apparently  resistless  tide 
of  Christianity  in  the  Empire. 

In  view  of  the  powerful  impression  which  the  constancy 
of  the  accused  Christian  when  brought  face  to  face  with 
all  the  horrors  of  torture  and  of  death  made  upon  the 
pagan  population  who  beheld  it  or  heard  of  it,  every  effort 
was  made  by  the  more  far-seeing  of  the  Roman  magistrates 
to  induce  the  accused  Christian  to  recant  and  to  yield  to  the 
will  and  wishes  of  the  imperial  government. 

In  countless  cases  this  yielding  was  made  seemingly  very 
easy — just  a  few  grains  of  incense  thrown  upon  an  idol  altar  ; 
just  an  acknowledgment  of  the  divinity  of  the  reigning 
Emperor,  which  could  after  all  be  explained  away  as  a  simple 
official  expression  of  fervid  loyalty. 

In  some  cases  a  recognition  of  one  supreme  deity — Jupiter 

—who  would  represent  the  one  Almighty  God  of  the  Christians 

—was  suggested  as   a   "  modus   vivendi  "   by   the  plausible 

rhetoric  of  a  statesmanlike  magistrate  who  cared  for  Rome, 

but  to  whom  all  religions  were  myths. 

The  Christian  senator,  who  for  the  sake  of  Christ  had 
given  up  a  beautiful  home  and  an  exalted  rank,  would  be 
reminded  by  his  pagan  colleagues  on  the  judge's  seat  of  the 
inescapable  duty  which  one  in  his  great  position  owed  to  law 
and  order — to  his  master  the  Emperor ; — surely  he,  of  all 

1  Lecky,  History  of  European  Morals,  chap,  iii.,  "  The  Persecutions, "pp.  497-8. 


men,  should  set  an  example  of  loyalty  and  obedience  ;  was 
he  to  degrade  his  proud  order  by  worshipping  an  unknown 
Crucified  offender  in  defiance  of  the  wishes  and  commands  of 
the  Emperor  and  the  imperial  government  ? 

A  yet  more  moving  appeal  was  very  often  made  to  the 
brave  Christians  of  both  sexes  by  an  eloquent  magistrate  to 
show  some  pity  for  those  they  loved, — for  their  aged  father 
and  mother  ;  for  husband  or  wife  or  helpless  children.  Were 
they  by  their  fatal  obstinacy  to  bring  bereavement  and  dis 
grace,  shame  and  poverty,  on  these  unoffending  ones  ? 

Then  behind  all  these  specious  arguments  the  Roman 
judge  would  show  the  pale  confessor  standing  before  him  the 
awful  tortures — the  cruel  death  which  surely  awaited  the  one 
who  refused,  with  what  seemed  a  sullen  and  inexplicable 
obstinacy,  to  obey  the  laws  of  an  immemorial  Empire,  when 
after  all  obedience  was  so  easy. 

And  many  did  yield — of  this  there  is  no  doubt.  The 
number  of  martyrs  who  resisted  unto  death  no  doubt  is  very 
great,  much  greater  than  the  cold  and  passionless  critic  chooses 
to  acknowledge,  but  the  number  of  those  who  did  yield  was 
no  doubt  considerable. 

It  was  indeed  a  title  to  honour  for  a  magistrate  of  Rome 
publicly  to  win  over  one  or  more  of  these  confessors  of  the  New 
Religion,  to  succeed  in  persuading  some  well-known  Christian 
to  scatter  on  the  altar  of  the  deified  Emperor,  or  of  the  popular 
image  of  Mars  the  Avenger,  or  of  Diana,  or  of  the  yet  greater 
Jupiter,  a  few  grains  of  incense  typifying  his  return  to  the 
ancient  pagan  cult — or  better  still,  to  extract  a  few  reluctant 
words  in  which  the  adored  Chiist  was  renounced  and  abandoned. 

Such  a  judicial  victory  was  ever  a  signal  triumph  for  the 
Roman  pagan  judge.  It  would  speedily  bear  its  fruits  and 
rally  to  the  drooping  standard  of  paganism  a  number  of  men 
and  women  pondering,  doubting,  hesitating  on  the  threshold 
of  Christianity  ;  a  threshold  with  such  an  example  of  recanta 
tion  before  them,  which  they  would  surely  never  cross  ! 

And  these  scenes  during  the  long  years  of  active  persecution 
were  acted  again  and  again.  The  war  between  the  religion  of 
Christ  and  the  old  idol-cult  so  dear  to  Rome  and  her  subject 
millions  was  indeed  a  protracted  and  deadly  combat,  and, 

196          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

as  far  as  men  could  see,  the  issue  for  long  years  trembled  in  the 

And  all  this  time  much — more  than  men  now  think— 
hung  on  the  grave  and  solemn  question  of  martyrdom. 

It  was  an  outward  and  visible  sign  of  that  new  wonderful 
revelation  which  was  influencing  so  many  different  minds, 
which  was  working  restlessly  in  such  varied  classes,  in 
Rome,  and  in  the  many  provinces  of  the  world  of  Rome, 
which  from  the  early  days  of  its  appearance  in  the  great 
Empire,  began  at  once  to  work  a  mighty  change  in  all 
ranks  in  all  society  where  it  penetrated,  and  every  year  it 
penetrated  deeper. 

The  New  Revelation  was  taught  by  an  ever-increasing 
band  of  teachers,  fervid,  impassioned,  eloquent — some  of  them 
learned  and  cultivated.  It  possessed  too  a  literature  which 
gradually  increased  in  volume  and  power — a  literature  which 
was  founded  upon  "  a  Record  "  which  these  teachers  affirmed 
issued  from  no  workshops  of  this  earth. 

But  all  this  literature,  powerful,  soul-stirring  though  it 
was,  only  touched,  comparatively  speaking,  a  very  few  of  the 
men  and  women  who  made  up  the  mighty  world  of  Rome.  The 
great  mass  of  the  peoples  of  the  Empire  neither  read  the  books 
nor  heard  the  words  of  the  teachers  of  the  New  Religion. 

Something  more  was  needed  to  touch  the  masses  of  the 
people — something  thousands  might  see  and  hear  of ;  some 
thing  they  might  see  for  themselves.  That  something  was 
supplied  by  the  noble  army  of  martyrs. 

From  the  first  days  of  the  appearance  of  the  new  teaching 
the  imperial  government  of  Rome  was  determined,  if  possible, 
to  stamp  it  out  of  the  society  which  Rome  controlled. 

While  the  disciples  of  Him  who  gave  the  doctrine  and  the 
solemn  charge  to  His  own  to  teach  the  strange  wonderful  story 
to  all  men,  were  still  living  and  bravely  carrying  out  the 
command  of  their  Master,  began  the  relentless  persecution  of 
those  who  received  the  New  Revelation  (men  named  them 
Christians  after  their  Master  Christ)  ;  a  persecution  which  was 
now  fitful  and  uncertain,  now  fierce  and  relentless  in  its  action, 
now  languid  and  halting,  but  which  never  slept.  During  the  two 


centuries  and  a  half,  the  period  roughly  from  Nero  to  Constan- 
tine, — to  be  a  Christian  was  simply  unlawful,  and  exposed  its 
votary  to  the  direst  penalties,  which  at  times  were  rigorously 
exacted.  The  law  of  the  State  at  times  was  suffered  to  remain 
in  partial  abeyance ;  but  to  use  the  great  African  teacher's 
nervous  words  spoken  to  the  Christian  Brotherhood,  during  all 
these  long  years — "  Non  licet  esse  vos."  l 

The  more  statesmanlike  of  the  Roman  rulers,  recognising 
the  influence  exercised  by  the  martyrs  over  the  people,  as  we 
have  remarked,  by  all  the  means  in  their  power  encouraged 
apostasy — because  a  public  renunciation  of  the  Faith  deeply 
moved  the  people.  Every  public  act  of  apostasy  was  a  heavy 
blow  to  the  Christian  cause  ;  while  on  the  other  hand,  each 
example  of  splendid  endurance  of  suffering  and  death  was  a 
wonderful  encouragement  to  the  vast  crowd  of  outsiders  who 
were  hesitating  on  the  borderland  of  Christianity.  What 
must  be,  thought  these,  and  they  were  a  great  multitude, 
the  secret  power  of  the  new  Faith  which  could  nerve  strong 
men,  tender  women — of  all  ages  and  of  different  ranks — to 
endure  such  awful  sufferings,  and  at  the  end  to  meet  death 
with  a  smile  lighting  up  the  wan  pain-wrung  faces. 


The  Story  they  told  must  be  true,  otherwise  never  would  it 
possess  such  a  mighty  power. 

Now,  the  leaders  of  the  sect  of  the  New  Revelation  were 
fully  conscious  of  these  two  factors  in  the  life  of  their  day  and 
time.  Anything  like  apostasy  or  public  renunciation  of  the 
religion  of  Christ  once  adopted  was  a  calamity  to  be  guarded 
against  with  the  utmost  vigilance.  On  the  other  hand,  each 
example  of  public  endurance  to  the  end  was  an  enormous  aid 
to  the  work  of  propagating  the  Faith, — so  from  very  early  days 
a  school — we  can  use  no  other  fitting  term — was  established  in 
the  great  Christian  centres,  of  preparation  for  Martyrdom. 
This  most  interesting  and  far-reaching  work  in  the  very 
early  Church — the  Church  of  the  Ages  of  Persecution — has 

1  "  It  is  not  lawful  to  be  you,"  but  it  is  impossible  to  render  in  English  the 
full  force  of  this  epigrammatic  saying  of  Tertullian. 

198          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

hitherto  generally  escaped  notice  ;    only  quite  lately  has  it 
attracted  some  attention.1 

It  was  no  haphazard  temporary  piece  of  work,  this  "  train 
ing  for  martyrdom,"  but  as  we  shall  see  a  veritable  "  school," 
a  protracted  education  for  an  awful,  for  a  not  improbable 
contingency.  At  the  end  of  the  second  and  through  the 
third  century  it  was  evidently  a  recognized  and  important 
Christian  agency.  When  once  we  are  aware  of  its  existence 
we  begin  to  find  unmistakable  proofs  of  it  in  the  writings 
of  important  teachers  like  Tertullian  and  Cyprian. 

In  this  once  famous  but  now  forgotten  school  of  martyrdom 
the  well-known  simile  of  S.  Paul  was  the  basis  of  the  theory 
which  seems  to  have  inspired  the  work — the  simile  which 
compared  the  Christian  combatant  in  the  world-arena  to  the 
athlete  in  the  well-known  and  popular  games  of  the  amphi 
theatre.  There  the  athlete,  before  entering  the  theatre  of 
combat,  was  carefully  educated  to  endure  hardness ;  a  long 
and  careful  training  before  such  an  one  could  hope  to  win  the 
palm  and  the  crown  was  absolutely  necessary.  He  must  go 
through  many  long,  laborious,  and  painful  exercises,  abstinence, 
watchings,  fastings,  before  his  body  was  fit  to  endure  the  perils 
and  sufferings  of  a  trained  combatant  in  the  public  arena. 

In  like  manner  must  the  Christian  athlete  who  looked 
forward  to  a  possible  martyr's  trial  train  himself.  S.  Cyprian, 
in  the  middle  of  the  third  century,  thus  definitely  writes 
of  what  clearly  had  been  the  practice  of  the  .Church  : 
"  Ad  agonem  saecularem,  exercentur  homines  et  parantur  .  .  . 
Armari  et  praeparari  nos  beatus  Apostolus  docet."  ("  For 
the  combat  with  the  world  are  men  trained  and  prepared.  .  .  . 
The  blessed  apostle  teaches  us  to  be  all  armed  and  ready.") 

The  prize  of  martyrdom  was  very  great.  The  visions  and 
dreams  of  the  blessed  sufferers  were  constantly  read  aloud 
in  the  congregation. 

At  the  moment  after  death  angels  would  bear  them  into 

1  De  Boissier,  the  Academician,  specially  calls  attention  to  it  as  a  some 
what  novel  piece  of  very  early  ecclesiastical  history,  and  he  refers  his  readers 
to  a  comparatively  little  known  study  on  this  subject  by  M.  Le  Blant,  a  well- 
known  scholar  in  early  Christian  lore  ;  of  this  "  Study  "  of  Le  Blant,  De  Boissier 
speaks  with  the  highest  praise. 

2  S.  Cyprian,  Epist.  Ixvi.  ad  Thibaritanos. 


Paradise — the  garden  of  God.  They  would  be  welcomed  there 
with  words  of  triumph  and  even  admiration.  The  Master 
would  Himself  receive  His  redeemed  servants  who  had  fought 
the  good  fight  and  won.  His  kiss  of  welcome,  the  touch  of 
His  hand,  would  at  once  fill  their  souls  with  a  joy  indescribable. 
The  "  Vision  of  Perpetua,"  circa  A.D.  200,  or  a  little  earlier,  one 
of  the  early  Passions  of  Martyrs,  the  absolute  authenticity  of 
which  is  undisputed, — for  it  has  never  been  added  to  or  re- 
edited, — is  a  good  example  of  the  "  Visions  "  seen  by  the 
martyrs  before  their  supreme  trial. 

But  far  more  than  the  public  recital  of  these  well-loved 
acts  and  passions  was  required  for  the  training  and  prepara 
tion  work,  so  a  number  of  short  treatises  or  tracts  were  specially 
composed  and  put  out  for  the  instruction  of  the  earnest  and 
devoted  men    and  women  as   "  Manuals,"   so  to  speak,   of 
preparation   for   the  great   trial.      Most   of   these   have   dis 
appeared  ;  they  were  composed  by  fervid  teachers  for  a  special 
season,  for  the  years  when  the  Church  was  exposed  to  bitter 
trial ;  and  when  the  trial  time  was  over  they  were  no  longer 
required,   and  as  a  rule   were   not  preserved.     A   very   few 
remain  to  us,  such  as  the  "  Exhortatio  ad  Martyrium  "   of 
Origen,  such  tractates  of  Tertullian  as  "ad  Mar  tyres  "  and 
the    "  Scorpiace "  ;    the    letter    "Ad    Thibaritanos  "    of     S. 
Cyprian,  and  the  anonymous  work  quoted  at  the  beginning 
of  this  chapter,  De  Laude  Martyrii.      These   are  fair  speci 
mens  of  what  was  once  a  considerable  literature.     In  very 
many  of  the  "  Passions  of  the  Martyrs  "  which  have  been 
preserved  we  meet  with  an  oft-repeated  answer  made  by  the 
Christian    to    the    judge    when    asked    about    his    rank    in 
life,  country,  family,  and  the  like.     "  I  am  a  Christian  "  was 
the  almost  invariable  answer  to  these  questions  ;   often  nothing 
more.     This  seems  to  have  been  the  "  formula  "  taught  in  the 
schools  of  martyrdom, — very    few    traces,  however,   of  this 
"formula"  appear  in  the  treatises  which  have  come  down  to  us; 
it  must,  however,  have  been  constantly  repeated  in  the  "lost" 
treatises  or  tracts  placed  in  the  hands  of  those  under  training, 
lost  treatises  to  which  reference  has  been  made.     The  Epistle 
of  S.  Ignatius  to   the  Romans  was  no  doubt  used  as  one 
of  these  treatises  or  manuals. 

200          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

The  words  too  of  a  famous  teacher  like  Cyprian,  who  himself 
in  the  end  suffered  martyrdom,  were  treasured  up.  Some  of 
them  are  contained  in  the  Vision  of  S.  Flavian  before  he 
suffered  :  "  I  saw  in  a  dream  the  martyr  Bishop  of  Carthage, 
and  I  said  to  him  :  '  Cyprian,  is  the  death  stroke  very 
agonizing  ?  '  He  replied  :  '  When  the  soul  is  in  a  state  of 
heavenly  rapture  the  suffering  flesh  is  no  longer  ours  ;  the 
body  is  quite  insensible  to  pain  when  the  spirit  is  with 

This  conception  of  the  insensibility  to  pain  on  the  part  of 
the  martyr  was  a  very  general  one.  Tertullian  repeats  it 
almost  in  identical  wrords.  S.  Felicitas,  quoted  in  the  Passion 
of  S.  Perpetua  above  referred  to,  said :  "  When  I  am  in  the 
amphitheatre  the  Lord  will  be  there  and  will  suffer  for  me." 

S.  Perpetua  in  the  same  well-known  "  Passion,"  after 
having  been  tossed  and  gored  by  a  wild  and  maddened  beast, 
woke  up  from  the  ecstacy  into  which  she  had  been  plunged 
and  asked  the  official  standing  near  her  when  she  was  to  be 
exposed  to  the  infuriated  animal.  S.  Blandina  in  another 
cruel  scene  of  martyrdom  was  equally  insensible  to  pain — 
her  soul  was  far  away  speaking  with  or  praying  to  the  Lord. 

But  of  all  the  various  "  Manuals  of  Martyrdom  "  which 
were  put  into  the  hands  of  those  who  desired  to  receive  a 
special  training  against  the  day  of  trial,  none  seemed  to  have 
been  efficacious,  easy  of  comprehension,  persuasive — like  the 
words  of  S.  Matthew's  Gospel.  These  were  evidently  com 
mitted  to  memory  and  murmured  again  and  again  in  the  sore 
hour  of  trial. 

Such  sayings  as  these — they  were  the  Lord's  own  words, 
the  sufferer  knew  :  "  Blessed  are  they  that  are  persecuted  for 
righteousness'  sake  ;  for  theirs  is  the  kingdom  of  heaven." 
."  How  l  strait  is  the  gate  and  narrow  is  the  way  which  leadeth 
unto  life."  "  Fear  not  them  which  kill  the  body,  but  are  not 
able  to  kill  the  soul ;  but  rather  fear  Him  which  is  able  to 
destroy  both  soul  and  body  in  hell." 

"  Whosoever,  therefore,  shall  confess  ME  before  men,  him 

1  A  very  ancient  and  probably  an  authoritative  reading.  When  in  the  text 
the  language  of  didactic  calmness  passes  suddenly  into  the  language  of 
emotion  :  "  How  strait  is  the  gate,"  etc. — S.  Matt.  vii.  13,  14. 


will  I  confess  (acknowledge)  before  My  Father  which  is  in 
heaven/'  "  But  whosoever  shall  deny  ME  before  men,  him 
will  I  also  deny  before  My  Father  which  is  in  heaven." 

"  He  that  loveth  father  and  mother  more  than  ME  is  not 
worthy  of  ME."  "  And  he  that  loveth  son  or  daughter  more 
than  ME  is  not  worthy  of  ME." 

"  If  any  man  will  come  after  ME,  let  him  deny  himself  and 
take  up  his  cross  and  follow  ME." 

"  And  every  one  that  hath  forsaken  houses,  or  brethren  or 
sisters,  or  father  or  mother,  or  wife  or  children,  or  lands  for 
My  Name's  sake,  shall  receive  an  hundred  fold,  and  shall 
inherit  everlasting  life." 

But  the  "  training  for  martyrdom  "  to  which  a  number  of 
Christians  in  the  first,  second,  and  third  centuries  voluntarily 
gave  themselves  was  by  no  means  confined  to  the  mastering 
of  the  contents  of  a  small  collection  of  carefully  prepared 
treatises,  or  to  the  listening  to  eloquent  and  burning  exhorta 
tions  of  devoted  teachers,  or  even  to  the  constant  dwelling  on 
the  words  of  the  Divine  Master.  This  training  included  a 
prolonged  and  carefully  balanced  practice  in  austerities  which 
would  accustom  the  body  to  self-denial  and  to  suffering,  so  that 
when  the  agony  of  the  trial  really  began,  the  body,  thoroughly 
enured  to  endurance,  would  be  able  to  meet  pain  without 

In  this  training  for  the  mortal  combat  in  which  victory  was 
so  all-important  to  the  cause,  no  efforts  were  spared — painful 
and  laborious  exercises,  long  fasting,  watching  and  prayer, 
which  would  render  the  body  insensible  to  fatigue,  capable 
of  bearing  any  suffering  however  poignant,  were  constantly 
practised.  This  training  sometimes  went  on  for  a  long  while 
before  a  fitting  opportunity  presented  itself  of  a  public 

It  was  the  want  of  this — the  absence  of  this  long  and 
careful  training  alluded  to  in  the  beautiful  and  evangelical 
letter  describing  the  Lyons  and  Vienne  martyrdoms,  which 
was  the  cause  of  many  of  the  earlier  failures,  and  shrinking  from 
the  agony  of  martyrdom,  of  some  of  the  Lyons  sufferers. 

202          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 


That  great  and  severe  master  Tertullian,  writing  about 
A.D.  200,  gives  us  some  details  of  the  austerities  practised  by 
those  in  training  for  a  martyr's  death.  We  will  quote  a  very 
few  of  his  burning  words  here. 

"  Blessed  martyrs  designate,  think,"  he  wrote,  "  how  in 
peace  soldiers  (he  was  speaking  of  the  training  of  the  uncon- 
quered  legions  of  Rome)  inure  themselves  to  war  by  toils, 
marching  in  heavy  armour,  running  over  the  exercise  yard, 
working  at  the  ditches,  framing  the  heavy  '  testudo/  engaging 
in  numberless  arduous  labours,  so  that  when  the  day  of  battle 
comes,  the  body  and  mind  may  not  shrink  as  it  passes  from  the 
robe  of  peace  to  the  coat  of  mail,  from  silence  to  clamour,  from 
quiet  to  tumult.  In  like  manner,  oh  blessed  ones  !  count 
whatever  is  hard  in  this  lot  of  yours  which  you  have  taken  up, 
as  a  discipline  of  mind  and  body.  You  are  about  to  pass 
through  a  noble  struggle  in  which  the  living  God  is  the  President, 
the  Holy  Ghost  is  the  trainer,  in  which  the  prize  is  an  eternal 
crown  of  angelic  life.  .  .  .  Therefore  your  Master  Jesus  Christ 
has  seen  good  before  the  day  of  conflict  ...  to  impose  on  you 
a  hard  training  that  your  strength  may  be  greater  "  .  .  .  "  the 
harder  the  labours  in  the  training  of  preparation,  the  stronger 
is  the  hope  of  victory,  ...  for  valour  is  built  up  by  hard 
ship."  i 

In  other  places  Tertullian  quotes  S.  Paul  in  such 
passages  as :  "  We  glory  in  tribulations  also,  knowing  that 
tribulation  worketh  patience,  and  patience  experience,  and 
experience  hope "  (Rom.  v.  3,  4) ;  and  again :  "  Therefore 
I  take  pleasure  "  (2  Cor.  xii.  10)  "  in  infirmities,  in 
reproaches,  in  necessities,  in  persecutions,  in  distresses 
for  Christ's  sake "  .  .  .  "  always  bearing  about  in  our 
body  the  dying  of  the  Lord  Jesus "  (2  Cor.  iv.  10) ; 
and  again  (2  Cor.  iv.  16,  17,  18),  "  Though  our  out 
ward  man  perisheth  yet  the  inward  man  is  renewed 
day  by  day.  .  .  .  For  our  light  affliction,  which  is  but 
for  a  monent,  worketh  for  us  a  far  more  exceeding 
and  eternal  weight  of  glory,  while  we  look  not  at  the 

1  Tertullian,  Ad  Martyr es,  3. 


things   which   are   seen,  but   at   the    things   which   are   not 
seen."  l 

In  his  treatise  on  "  Idolatry  "  Tertullian  enters  even  more 
into  detail  on  this  question  of  "  training  for  martyrdom." 
He  enjoined  that  every  kind  of  austerity  should  be  practised,— 
for  instance,  that  hunger  and  thirst  should  be  endured  as  an 
habitual  observance. 

This  fervid  exhortation  closes  with  the  singular  words  : 
"  An  over-fed  Christian  will  be  more  necessary  to  bears  and 
lions,  perchance,  than  to  God  ;  to  encounter  wild  beasts  it 
will  surely  be  his  duty  to  train  for  emaciation." 

All  this  and  much  more  in  this  curious  "  Study  "  of  Ter 
tullian  partake  of  exaggeration,  but  it  throws  considerable 
light  on  the  manner  on  which  martyrdom  was  positively 
trained  for,  and  the  body  prepared  for  the  endurance  of 
terrible  suffering,  a  suffering  invariably  closed  by  death. 
Every  example  of  such  a  bravely  patient  endurance — every 
"resistance  unto  blood" — the  Christian  guides  and  leaders 
of  the  first  250  years  felt  was  of  inestimable  value  for  the 
propagation  of  their  cause.  Every  public  defeat  and  recanta 
tion,  on  the  other  hand,  would  be  a  grave  injury  to  their  work  ; 
so  the  pagan  government  strained,  as  we  have  remarked,  every 
nerve  to  make  recantation  easy  ;  while  the  Christian  masters, 
on  the  contrary,  did  everything  which  ingenuity  could  invent 
or  fervid  devotion  suggest  to  train  up  athletes  who  in  the 
supreme  public  trial  might  win  the  prize  of  martyrdom. 

They  were  successful — in  spite  of  many  defeats.  These 
schools  of  martyrdom  produced  in  Rome  and  in  the  provinces 
a  countless  succession  of  brave  men  and  women  of  all  ranks, 
of  all  ages — who,  to  the  amazement  of  the  pagan  world, 
through  pain  and  agony  again  and  again  won  the  martyr's 
blood-stained  glorious  crown.  It  was  quite  a  novel  experience 
in  the  world,  and  the  effect  which  it  had  worked  on  the  rank 
and  file  of  men  and  women  was  only  clearly  seen  after  the 
Peace  of  the  Church.  The  people  of  Rome,  from  what 
they  had  seen,  were  persuaded  with  an  intense  persuasion, 
no  one  doubting  that  a  Faith  which  could  produce  such 

1  Quoted  in  the  Scorpiace  of  Tertullian,  and  much  more  from  S.  Paul  to 
the  same  point. 

204          THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

heroes  was  surely  based  on  something  which  was  true  and 

Some  eighty  or  at  most  ninety  years  before  Tertullian 
lived  and  wrote,  Ignatius,  Bishop  of  Antioch,  on  his  way  to 
Rome,  where  he  was  doomed  to  be  exposed  to  the  wild  beasts 
in  the  great  amphitheatre,  wrote  his  famous  letter  to  the 
Roman  Church. 

The  date  of  the  letter  is  about  A.D.  107-10.  The  little 
writing  was  highly  esteemed  in  the  early  Church.  It  may 
be  fairly  styled  a  vade  mecum  of  martyrs  in  the  age  of  per 
secution.  It  accurately  embodies  the  thoughts  and  aspira 
tions  which  the  "  School  of  Martyrs  "  we  have  been  picturing 
taught  its  pupils.  We  will  give  some  of  these  thoughts  as 
a  fitting  conclusion  to  this  little  study  on  "  Preparation  for 
Martyrdom  "  as  practised  during  the  first  two  hundred  and 
fifty  years. 

This  Letter  of  Ignatius  breathes  in  its  nervous  and 
impassioned  words  a  complete  fearlessness,  though  the  awful 
trial  lay  immediately  before  him  ;  it  tells  of  an  intense  and 
impassioned  desire  on  the  part  of  the  \vriter  to  be  allowed 
to  bear  his  witness  to  the  love  of  Christ — to  be  permitted 
"  to  resist  unto  blood  "  (Heb.  xii.  4).  The  whole  of  the 
short  letter  is,  in  fact,  a  passionate  cry  for  martyrdom. 

Ignatius  wrote  somewhat  as  follows  : 

"  DEAR  ROMAN  CONGREGATION, — Do  nothing  which  may 
hinder  me  from  finishing  my  course.  If  you  keep  silence, 
God  will  speak  through  me."  (He  evidently  feared  that, 
through  the  intercession  of  powerful  friends  whom  the  great 
teacher  knew  he  possessed  in  the  capital,  the  death  sentence 
might  be  postponed,  possibly  annulled.) 

"  Pray  "  —he  wrote — "  that  I  may  have  strength  to  do  as 
well  as  to  say.  If  only  you  will  keep  silence  and  leave  me 
alone, — I  am  a  word  of  God  ;  but  if  you  desire  my  life — 
then  shall  I  be  again  a  mere  cry.  It  is  good  to  get  from  the 
world  unto  God  that  I  may  rise  unto  Him. 

"  I  would  that  all  men  should  know  that  of  my  own  free 
will,  I  die  for  God.  .  .  .  Let  me  be  given  to  the  wild  beasts, 
that  I  may  be  found  pure  bread  of  God  (or  of  Christ).  Bear 


with  me.  .  .  .  Now  am  I  beginning  to  be  a  disciple.  .  .  . 
Come  fire  and  cross  and  grapplings  with  wild  beasts,  wrench 
ing  of  bones,  hacking  of  limbs,  crushings  of  my  whole  body. 
Come  cruel  tortures  of  the  devil  to  assail  me.  Only  be  it  mine 
to  attain  unto  Jesus  Christ !  .  .  .  Him  I  seek  who  died  on 
our  behalf.  Him  I  desire  who  rose  again  for  our  sake.  .  .  . 
Suffer  me  to  receive  the  pure  light :  when  I  am  come  thither, 
then  I  shall  be  a  man.  Let  me  be  an  imitator  of  the  Passion 
of  my  God  .  .  ." 

"  I  write  unto  you  in  the  midst  of  life,  yet  lusting  after 
death.  My  desire  (or  my  love  of  life)  has  been  crucified, 
there  is  (now)  no  fire  of  earthly  longing  in  me  but  only  water, 
living  and  speaking  in  me  and  saying  within  me,  '  Come  to 
the  Father.'  I  have  no  delight  in  the  food  of  corruption  or 
in  the  delights  of  life.  I  desire  the  bread  of  God  which  is  the 
flesh  of  Christ,  .  .  .  and  for  drink  I  desire  His  blood,  which 
is  love  incorruptible." 

•  •  •  •  •  • 

This  was  the  new  marvellous  spirit  in  which  the  early 
Christian  martyrs  met  and  welcomed  with  a  strange  intense 
gladness,  torture,  ignominy,  death.  This  was  the  spirit  which 
the  great  pagan  statesmen  who  sat  at  the  helm  of  the  Empire 
in  Rome  dreaded  with  a  nameless  dread,  and  longed  to  crush 
and  to  destroy,  the  new  spirit  which  the  wisest  and  most 
far-seeing  among  them  felt  was  ever  ringing  the  death-knell 
of  the  pagan  cult,  the  cult  they  connected  with  the  genesis, 
the  power,  and  the  very  life  of  the  Roman  system,  the  cult 
which  deified  Rome  and  worshipped  the  genius  of  Rome's 




/CONSIDERABLE    stress   has  been  laid  in  the  preceding 

V s     pages  on  the  question  of  the  duration  of  the  periods 

of  persecution  and  the  consequent  number  of  martyrs 
who  suffered  in  these  periods.  It  has  commonly  been  assumed 
that  after  the  death  of  Nero  a  lengthened  period  of  quiet 
was  enjoyed  by  the  Church  of  Rome  as  in  the  provinces, 
and  that  the  sect  of  Christians  was  generally  left  unmolested 
during  the  reigns  of  Vespasian  and  Titus,  and  indeed  of 
Domitian,  until  quite  the  last  years  of  his  life. 

It  has  been  shown  that  this  was  by  no  means  the  case, 
and  that  the  Christians  were  harassed  more  or  less  all  through 
this  period  of  supposed  quiet. 

And  after,  through  the  reigns  of  Trajan  and  Hadrian, 
the  rapidly  growing  Christian  community  was  perpetually  per 
secuted  by  an  unfriendly  and  suspicious  government,  often  at 
the  instigation  of  a  jealous  and  hostile  populace.  Again  and 
again  these  attacks,  probably  at  first  mostly  local  and  partial, 
flamed  out  into  a  general  and  bitter  persecution. 

In  the  days  of  Antoninus  Pius  the  harrying  of  Christians 
even  grew  more  and  more  general  and  cruel,  and  when  Marcus 
Antoninus  became  Emperor,  the  sufferings  of  the  disciples 
of  Jesus  of  Nazareth  became  decidedly  more  acute  and  pro 
nounced,  and  a  terrible  period  of  persecution  set  in  and  became 
the  lot  of  the  Christian  subjects  of  Rome. 

We  have  awful  examples  of  this  bitter  "  Antonine  "  per 
secution  in  the  sad  records,  undoubtedly  genuine,  of  the 


208         THE  INNER  LIFE  OF  THE  CHURCH 

martyrs  of  Vienne  and  Lyons,  of  the  Scillitan  martyrs 
in  North  Africa,  of  the  heroic  Mauritanian  victims, 
in  the  striking  and  pathetic  acts  of  Perpetua  and  her 

Again  it  has  been  not  unfrequently  urged,  and  very  largely 
believed,  that  the  Christian  traditions  exaggerated  the  number 
of  martyrs  who  suffered  during  the  long  though  occasionally 
interrupted  periods  of  persecution.  As  regards  this  early 
period,  the  first  two  centuries,  the  age  we  are  now  especially 
dwelling  on,  this  supposition,  very  generally  more  or  less 
accepted,  is  absolutely  baseless.  Indeed,  the  exact  contrary 
is  the  case. 

So  far  from  exaggerating  the  numbers  of  confessors  of 
"  the  Name,"  or  painting  in  too  vivid  colours  the  story 
of  their  martyrdom,  the  earlier  Christian  writers  dwell  very 
little  either  on  the  number  of  the  confessors  or  on  their 
sufferings.  It  does  not  appear  that  any  mention  of  martyrs 
or  confessors  of  the  second  century  appears  in  the  oldest 
extant  Church  calendars  ;  no  allusion  in  these  lists  is  recorded 
of  martyrs  until  after  the  middle  of  the  third  century.  Only 
in  the  case  of  some  celebrated  martyrs  and  confessors  is  an 
exception  made.  As  a  rule,  save  in  very  special  cases,  no 
anniversary  of  second-century  martyrs  appears  to  have  been 
kept.  It  is  only  from  the  general  tone  of  the  earliest  Christian 
writings  2  that  we  gather  that  the  community  was  exposed 
to  an  ever-present  danger,  and  that  the  shadow  of  persecution 
was  ever  brooding  over  the  heads  of  the  followers  of  "  the 

By  far  the  most  definite  account  of  the  great  numbers  of 
Christians,  the  way  in  which  they  were  looked  upon  by  the 
imperial  government,  and  the  severe  measures  taken  against 
them,  are  to  be  found  in  the  notices  of  great  pagan  historians 
such  as  Tacitus  and  Suetonius,  and  more  accurately  and 
precisely  in  the  Letter  of  Pliny  to  Trajan  and  in  the 

1  Although  the  usual  date  given  for  this  last  attack  on  Christianity  is  a  few 
months  after  the  death  of  the  Emperor  Marcus.     There  is  no  doubt  that  they 
belong  to  the  policy  of  persecution  carried  out  by  Marcus,  and  that  the  reaction 
in  favour  of  Christianity  noticeable  in  the  reign  of  Commodus,  his  successor, 
had  not  had  time  to  make  itself  felt. 

2  Compare  the  quotations  taken  from  these  writings  given  above. 


Emperor's  reply,  on  which  we  have  already  dwelt  with  some 

On  the  important  and  interesting  question  respecting  the 
"  number  "  of  martyrs  generally,  one  very  weighty  piece  of 
evidence  has  been  curiously  neglected  and  ignored. 

This  evidence  comes  from  the  Catacombs,  which  have 
been  in  later  years  the  subject  of  so  much  careful  and  pains 
taking  research,  a  research  that  is  still  proceeding.  In  these 
investigations  perhaps  nothing  has  assisted  the  great  scholars 
who  have  devoted  themselves  to  the  work,  so  much  as  the 
so-called  "  Itineraries  "  or  "  Pilgrim  Guides  "  to  this  great 
network  of  subterranean  cemeteries  beneath  the  suburbs  of 
Rome.  In  the  fifth,  sixth,  and  two  following  centuries  we 
know  that  vast  numbers  of  Pilgrims,  not  only  from  Italy  but 
from  distant  countries,  visited  Rome,  especially  with  the 
view  of  reverently  visiting  and  praying  at  the  shrines  of  the 
brave  confessors  of  the  Faith  who  suffered  in  the  days  of 
persecution,  from  the  time  of  Nero  to  the  accession  of  Con- 
stantine  the  Great  to  power. 

To  assist  these  pilgrim  crowds,  a  certain  number  of 
"  Itineraries "  were  composed.  Some  few  of  them  have 
come  down  to  us ;  these  curious  and  interesting  Pilgrim 
"  Hand-Books "  have  been  usually  unearthed  (in  com 
paratively  speaking  modern  times)  in  certain  of  the  greater 
monastic  libraries.1 

They  date  from  the  last  years  of  the  fifth  century  onwards, 
and  were  written — the  copies  we  possess — mostly  in  the 
sixth,  seventh,  and  eighth  centuries.  No  doubt  these  "  It 
ineraries  "  were  copied  from  still  older  documents,  and  it  is 
likely  that  more  will  be  discovered.  But  these  that  we 
possess  have  been  of  incalculable  service  to  the  researches 
of  men  like  Marchi,  De  Rossi,  Marucchi,  and  their  companions. 

The  information  contained  in  these  Pilgrim  Guide-Books 
has  been  found  to  be  in  most  cases  singularly  accurate,  and 
the  details  set  forth  have  been  found  most  strikingly  to 
correspond  with  what  has  been  discovered.  Not  only  have 
the  more  famous  shrines  alluded  to  been  identified,  but  even 
the  general  details  have  been  proved  to  have  been  largely 

1 A  short  account  of  the  principal  of  these  Itineraries  is  given  on  pp.  227-8. 


correct.  One  detail,  however,  in  these  ancient  "  Pilgrim 
Itineraries  "  has  not  received  the  attention  it  deserved,  and 
which  in  a  most  striking  way  confirms  the  point  urged  above, 
that  the  numbers  of  martyrs  in  Rome  (for  we  are  dwelling 
here  especially  on  Rome)  has  been  greatly  underrated  by 
most  historians. 

We  will  briefly  glance  through  the  testimony  of  the 
"  Itineraries "  on  this  point,  touching  upon  each  of  the 
principal  Catacombs  in  order.  As  a  rule  the  "  Pilgrim 
Itineraries  "  class  the  different  groups  of  cemeteries  (Cata 
combs)  under  the  different  heading  of  the  Roman  road  in  the 
immediate  vicinity  of  which  they  were  excavated.  Thus 
cemeteries  are  classed  together  which  are  situated  on  the 
"  Via  Aurelia,"  the  "  Via  Portuensis,"  the  "  Via  Appia,"  the 
'  Via  Salaria  Nova,"  etc.  This  topographical  arrangement 
was  drawn  up  evidently  for  the  convenience  of  these  pilgrim 
travellers,  who  were  thus  guided  in  turn  round  the  principal 


THE  VIA  VATICANA.     (The  Vatican  Cemetery.) 

The  allusion  referred  to  here  is  to  the  crypts  existing 
beneath  the  great  basilica  of  S.  Peter. — "  No  man  knows 
what  the  number  is  of  the  holy  martyrs  who  rest  in  this 
Church  "  (Etenim  nullus  hominum  scit  numerum  sanct 
orum  Martyrum  qui  in  eadem  ecclesia  pausant). — Itinerary 
of  William  of  Malmesbury. 

This  "  Guide  "  was  probably  published  for  the  use  of 
the  Crusaders.  It  was  evidently  made  from  a  much 
older  document,  for  many  of  the  shrines  alluded  to  in  it 
belonged  to  Catacombs  which  in  William  of  Malmesbury 's 
time  had  been  long  forgotten. 

THE  VIA  AURELIA.     (The  road  leading  to  Civita  Vec  hia.) 

After  speaking  of  the  shrines  of  certain  celebrated 
confessors  buried  in  a  cemetery  hard  by  this  road,  we 


read  how  "  these  lie  buried  with  many  (other  martyrs)  " 
(cum  multis  sepulti  jacent). — De  Locis  SS.  Martyrum. 

Of  this  "  Itinerary,"  the  full  title  of  which  is  "  De  Locis 
SS.  Martyrum  quae  sunt  foris  civitatem  Romae," — the 
MS.  was  found  in  the  Salzburg  Library. 

THE  VIA  PORTUENSIS.     (The  road  leading  to  Portus,  the  ancient 

port  of  Rome,  constructed  by  Claudius.} 
Certain  famous  shrines  are  particularised,  after  which 
follow  the  words  :  "  Then  you  go  down  into  a  cave  (or 
crypt),  and  you  will  find  there  an  innumerable  multitude 
of  martyrs  "  (invenies  ibi  innumerabilem  multitudinem 
martyrum) ;  and  again,  alluding  to  another  spot,  "  that 
cave  (or  crypt)  is  filled  with  the  bones  of  martyrs." 

The  cemeteries  on  the  Via  Portuensis  include  the  ceme 
teries  of  Pontianus  and  S.  Felix. — Salzburg  Itinerary. 


THE  VIA  OSTIENSIS.     (The  road  leading  to  Ostia.} 

After  alluding  to  the  sepulchre  of  S.  Paul  and  other 
shrines,  such  as  S.  Adauctus,  mention  is  made  of  a  martyr 
Nomeseus,  with  many  others  (cum  plurimis  aliis). 

THE  VIA  ARDEATINA.      (A  road  on  the  right  or  west  of  the 

Via  Appia.) 

The  "  Guide  "  speaks  of  various  shrines  and  proceeds 
to  say  :  "  Not  far  off  lie  S.  Petronilla  and  Nereus  and 
Achilles  and  many  other  martyrs." — Itinerary  of  William 
of  Malmesbury. 

THE  VIA  APPIA.      (The    "  Queen   of   Roads "    leads   through 
Albano  on  to  Capua.) 

(1)  After   enumerating   various   notable  shrines,  such 
as  that  of  S.  Cecilia,  we  read  :  "  There  we  come  upon  a 
countless    multitude    of    martyrs "     (Ibi    innumerabilis 
multitude  martyrum). 

(2)  Further   on,   mention   is   made   of   "80   nameless 
martyrs  who  rest  here." — Salzburg  Itinerary. 

(i)   In  another  "  Itinerary  "  describing  the  cemeteries 


of  the  Appian  Way  we  read  of  "  800  martyrs  who  are 
stated  to  rest  in  the  great  Callistus  group  of  Catacombs." 

(2)  And  here  again  the  expression  is  used,  "  with  many 
martyrs." — De  Locis  SS.  Marty  rum. 

THE  VIA  LATINA  (leads  out  of   the  ancient  Porta  Capena  to 

the  left  of  the  Appian  Way). 

The  "  Itinerary  "  here  referred  to  speaks  of  some  three 
groups  of  cemeteries,  in  two  of  which,  it  states,  after 
particularising  some  famous  shrines,  that  "  many  martyrs 
rest  there." — De  Locis  SS.  Martyrum. 

THE  VIA  LABICANA  (leads  out  of  the  ancient  Esquiline  Gate). 

The  "  Pilgrim  Guide "  here  referred  to  mentions 
that,  in  the  group  of  cemeteries  situate  on  this  road, 
"  many  martyrs  rest."  In  another  place  it  alludes  to 
"  many  other  martyrs  "  ;  in  another,  "  30  martyrs." — 
Itinerary  of  Salzburg. 

Another  "  Pilgrim  Guide.  "  tells  us  of  "  a  countless 
multitude  of  martyrs  "  buried  in  this  group  of  Cata 
combs. — De  Locis  SS.  Martyrum. 

Another  "  Itinerary,"  after  specifying  some  famous 
names,  mentions  that  here  were  "  other  martyrs  un 
numbered." — Itinerary  of  Einsiedeln. 

THE  VIA  TIBURTINA.  (The  road  which  through  the  Tiburtina 
Gate,  now  the  Porta  S.  Lorenzo,  leads  to  Tivoli.) 

The  "Guide  "  speaks  of  the  Church  of  S:  Laurence 
and  the  two  basilicas  in  the  cemetery  adjacent.  It 
says  :  "  Many  martyrs  rest  there  "  ;  and  again,  in  the 
cemetery  hard  by,  mentions  "  a  multitude  of  saints  " 
buried  there. — Itinerary  of  Salzburg. 

Another  "  Itinerary,"  describing  these  cemeteries, 
records  that  "  with  S.  Cyriaca  and  S.  Symphorosa  are 
buried  "  many  martyrs." — De  Locis  SS.  Martyrum. 

THE  VIA  NOMENTANA  (leads  out  of  the  old  Porta  Collina  to 
the  town  of  Nomentum  (Mentana) .  The  modern  Porta 
Pia  is  close  to  the  old  gate). 

After  describing  the  group  of  cemeteries  lying  round 
the  Basilica  of  S.  Agnes,  and  mentioning  some  of  the 


better  known  saints,  the  "  Itinerary  "  says  :  "  Many  others 
sleep  there." — De  Locis  55.  Martyrum. 

THE  VIA  SALARIA  NOVA  (leads  in  a  northerly  direction  out  of 
the  old  Porta  Collina  (Porta  Pia  now).  The  great 
Cemetery  (Catacomb)  of  Priscilla  is  a  little  way  out  of 
the  city  on  this  road). 

The  "  Itinerary  "  is  speaking  of  the  old  Basilica  of 
S.  Sylvester ;  its  ruins  are  in  the  Priscilla  Catacomb. 
There,  it  says,  "  a  multitude  of  saints  rest  ";  and  further 
on,  still  speaking  of  the  same  Basilica  of  S.  Sylvester,  says 
that  "  under  the  altar  with  certain  famous  confessors 
there  are  a  multitude  of  saints." — Itinerary  of  Salzburg. 

Another  "  Guide,"  writing  of  the  great  ones  who  rest 
in  the  "  Priscilla  "  Cemetery,  adds  how  they  sleep  there 
"  with  many  saints."  Hard  by,  the  same  "  Guide " 
tells  us  how  one  of  the  confessor-sons  of  S.  Felicitas  in 
the  same  spot  rests  "  with  many  saints "  ;  and  again 
alludes  to  "  the  many  martyrs  buried  there."  And  once 
more,  speaking  of  the  shrine  of  S.  Sylvester,  relates  that 
"  very  many  more  saints  and  martyrs  lie  hard  by."  In 
one  grave,  the  "  Guide  "  adds,  "  373  are  buried." — De 
Locis  55.  Martyrum. 

William  of  Malmesbury,  copying — as  we  said — from  a 
much  older  "  Pilgrim  Guide,"  after  enumerating  the 
names  of  the  more  prominent  martyrs,  adds,  "  and  there 
are  innumerable  other  saints  buried  there "  (alii  in- 
numerabiles). — William  of  Malmesbury. 

THE  VIA  SALARIA  VETUS.  (This  road  was  in  the  immediate 
neighbourhood  of  the  last  mentioned,  the  "  Via  Solaria 

The  !'  Itinerary,"  describing  the  group  of  cemeteries  on 
this  road,  writes,  after  mentioning  the  better  known 
names  of  saints :  "  These  are  buried  with  many 
martyrs " ;  and  further  on  relates  how  "  230 
martyrs  are  interred  here." — De  Locis  55.  Martyrum. 

William  of  Malmesbury,  writing  of  the  same  group, 
relates  that  "  in  the  one  grave  260  martyrs  rest,"  and  "  in 
another  30." — William  of  Malmesbury,  Itinerary. 


THE  VIA  FLAMINIA.  (This  ancient  road  leads  out  of  the  modern 
Porta  del  Popolo,  is  a  direct  continuation  of  the 
modern  Cor  so.  It  is  the  great  road  communicating 
with  North  Italy.) 

There  is  only  one  Cemetery  or  Catacomb  on  this  road, 
that  of  S.  Valentinus.  The  "  Guide  "  relates  how  the 
martyr  S.  Valentinus  rests  there  together  "with  other 
martyrs  unnamed." — Itinerary  of  Salzburg. 

Another '  *  Guide ' '  says :  ' '  Many  saints  are  buried  here/ ' — 
De  Locis  55.  Martyrum. 


Of  somewhat  less  weight  than  the  testimony  of  the 
"  Itineraries "  or  "  Pilgrim  Guide "  books,  but  still  of 
great  importance  as  throwing  a  strong  sidelight  upon 
the  evidence  we  have  massed  together  on  the  subject 
of  the  large  numbers  of  the  martyrs  and  confessors  of 
Rome  interred  in  the  Catacombs,  are  the  Monza  "  Catalogue  " 
and  "  Labels "  once  attached  to  the  little  phials  of  oil 
brought  to  Theodelinda  from  the  sacred  shrines  of  Rome. 

We   have    elsewhere    briefly   described    this   curious   and 

absolutely  authentic  relic.1    Theodelinda  asked  for  relics  from 

the  shrines  of  the  Cemeteries   (Catacombs)  of   Rome ;   Pope 

Gregory  the  Great  in  the  last  years  of  the  sixth  century  sent 

to  her  a  little  of  the  oil  from  the  lamps  which  in  his  days 

were  ever  kept  burning  before  each  of  the  shrines  in  question. 

The  original  "  Catalogue  "  (Notitia)  of  these  oils,  and  the 

"  Labels  "  (Pittacia)  once  attached  to  the  phials  which  held 

the  oils,  are  preserved  in  the  Cathedral  of  Monza. 

The  "  Catalogue "  (or  Notitia)  is  preceded  by  the 
following  words  : 

"  Not.  de  olea  scorum  (sanctorum)  martyrum  qui  Romae  in 
corpore  requiescunt — id  est,"  etc.  Here  follows  the  List  of 
Martyrs  from  whose  shrines  a  little  of  the  oil  (contained 
in  the  lamps  always  burning  before  them)  was  taken. 

In  several  instances,  notably  after  such  names  as  S.  Agnes, 
S.  Cecilia,  SS.  Felix  and  Philippus  and  S.  Cornelius,  occur  the 
following  expressions  :— 

1  See  pp.  227-8. 


"  Et  aliamm  multarum  Martyrum  "  — "  et  multa  millia 
scorum" — (sanctorum)  "etaliiSci  (Sancti),idestCCLXII.'J  .  .  . 
"in  unum  locum  et  alii  CXXII.  et  alii  Sci  XLVI.  "— "et 
aliorum  multi  scor  "  (sanctorum). 

In  other  words,  the  "  Catalogue  "  and  the  "  Labels  "  on 
the  phials  relate  how  the  sacred  oil  was  taken  from  lamps 
burning  before  the  graves  (the  shrines)  of  S.  Agnes  and  of 
"  many  other  martyrs  buried  close  by  "  ;  of  S.  Cornelius  and 
"  of  many  thousands  of  saints  "  resting  in  the  immediate 
neighbourhood  of  his  tomb  ;  of  S.  Philippus  and  of  "  many 
other  saints  sleeping  near  his  shrine,"  etc. 

In  three  instances  the  exact  numbers  of  the  nameless 
martyrs  are  given,  viz.  :  262,  122,  and  46.  The  expression 
"  many  thousands  "  which  occurs  in  this  venerable  memorial 
of  the  reverent  feeling  of  Christians  of  the  sixth  century 
towards  the  noble  and  devoted  confessors  of  the  Faith,  is  of 
course  an  exaggerated  one  ;  it  may  even  be  termed  a  rhetorical 
expression  ;  but  it  bears  its  undoubted  testimony  to  the  deeply 
rooted  belief  of  Christians  who  lived  in  the  centuries  which 
immediately  followed  the  Peace  of  the  Church,  that  in  this 
sacred  City  of  the  Roman  dead  an  enormous  number  of 
martyrs  was  buried,  besides  those  whose  names  and  stories 
were,  as  it  were,  household  words  in  every  land  where  Jesus 
Christ  was  adored. 


There  is  a  celebrated  inscription  of  Pope  Damasus  (A.D. 
366-84)  preserved  in  one  of  the  collections  of  the  epitaphs 
he  placed  in  the  Catacombs  (the  Sylloge  Palestina),  an  in 
scription  originally  placed  in  the  Papal  Crypt  of  the  "  Callis- 
tus  "  Cemetery,  which  speaks  especially  of  "a  number  of 
martyrs  buried  together  "  near  that  sacred  spot.  The  epitaph 
commences  as  follows  : 

"Hie  congesta  jacet  quaeris  si  turba  piorum 
Corpora  sanctorum  retinent  vcneranda  sepulchra 
Sublimes  animas  rapuit  sibi  Regia  cocli."1 

1  Allard  translates  these  lines :  "  Si  vous  voulez  savoir,  ici  reposent 
amonceles  les  ossements  d'un  grand  nombre  des  saints  ;  ces  venerables 
tombeaux  gardent  les  corps  des  elus  dont  le  royaume  des  cieux  a  tire  a  lui 


Prudentius  (Perist.  i.  73)  (end  of  fourth  century)  beautifully 
alludes  to  the  veil  of  oblivion  which  has  fallen  over  the  hidden 
graves  of  these  numberless  nameless  martyrs  : 

"O  vetustatis  silentis  obsoleta  oblivio 
Invidentur  ista  nobis,  fama  et  ipsa  extinguitur. " 

And  again  (Perist.  ii.) : 

"Vix  Fama  nota  est,  abditis 
Quam  plena  sanctis  Roma  sit, 
Quam  dives  urbanum  solum 
Sacri  sepulchris  floreat." 

The  martyrs  traditionally  interred  in  the  various  Cata 
combs  of  Rome,  and  whose  graves  were  reverently  and  per 
sistently  visited  by  crowds  of  pilgrims  to  Rome  from  foreign 
lands  after  the  Peace  of  the  Church  during  the  fourth,  fifth, 
and  following  centuries,  represent  the  victims  of  the  various 
periods  of  persecution  during  the  first  three  centuries. 

It  is  by  no  means  intended  to  press  the  traditional  state 
ments  contained  in  the  Pilgrim  Itineraries  quoted  in  this 
chapter  respecting  the  vast  number  of  martyrs  interred  in 
the  Catacombs  of  Rome. 

These  statements  are  probably  somewhat  exaggerated, 
but  the  undisputed  fact  remains  that  a  very  great  number 
of  these  victims  of  the  various  persecutions  were  certainly 
interred  in  this  hallowed  city  of  the  dead  ;  and  the  unvarying 
tradition  of  the  number  of  martyrs  so  interred  must  be  taken 
into  account,  and  gravely  reckoned  with,  wherever  the  "question 
of  the  number  of  Christian  victims  is  considered. 

les  ames  sublimes."  "  Des  polyandres,  ou  tombes  consacrees  a  des  centaines, 
peut-etre  a  des  milliers  de  corps,  s'ouvrai en t  en  plusieurs  parties  des  catacombes. 
Ces  tombes  etaient  toujours  anonymes,  remplies  de  martyrs — '  quorum 
nomina  scit  Omnipotens  '  selon  1'expression  du  Pope  Pascal."  ..."  M.  De 
Rossi  croit  reconnaitre  dans  une  fosse  profonde  qui  s'ouvre  sous  la  niche 
profonde  a  gauche  de  1'autel  dans  la  chapelle  Papale  .  .  .  le  polyandre 
celebre  ou  reposaient,  selon  d'anciens  documents,  une  multitude  innombrable 
de  martyrs  enterres  '  ad  sanctam  Caeciliam.'  "  (See  Allard,  Rome  Souteraine 
(Northcote  &  Brownlow),  Cimetieve  de  Calliste,  216-18;  and  see  too  note  on 
p.  218.) 




I.  '6 


AN  absolutely  reliable  source  of  information  respecting  the 
secret    of    the    inner    life  of    the  Church  in  the  early 
Christian  centuries  is  the  faithful  record  of  the  thoughts, 
the  hopes,  the  aspirations  of  the  congregations  of  the  Church 
of  the  metropolis  of  the  Empire,  carved  and  painted  on  the 
countless  graves  of  the  subterranean  corridors  and  chambers  of 
the  Catacombs  of  Rome. 

"  The  popular,  the  actual  belief  of  a  generation  or  society 
of  men  cannot  always  be  ascertained  from  the  contemporary 
writers,  who  belong  for  the  most  part  to  another  stratum. 
The  belief  of  a  people  is  something  separate  from  the  books  or 
the  watchwords  of  parties.  It  is  in  the  air.  It  is  in  their 
intimate  conversation.  We  must  hear,  especially  in  the  case 
of  the  simple  and  unlearned,  what  they  talk  of  to  each  other. 
We  must  sit  by  their  bedsides,  get  at  what  gives  them  most 
consolation,  what  most  occupies  their  last  moments.  This, 
whatever  it  be,  is  the  belief  of  the  people,  right  or  wrong  ;  this 
and  this  only,  is  their  real  religion.  .  .  .  Now,  is  it  possible  to 
ascertain  this  concerning  the  early  Christians  ? 

'  The  books  of  that  period  are  few  and  far  between,  and 
those  books  are  for  the  most  part  the  works  of  learned  scholars 
rather  than  of  popular  writers.  Can  we,  apart  from  these 
books,  discover  what  was  their  most  real  and  constant  repre 
sentation  of  their  dearest  hopes  here  and  hereafter  ?  Strange 
to  say,  after  all  this  lapse  of  time  (getting  on  for  ;ome  two 
thousand  years)  it  is  possible  ;  the  answer,  at  any  rate,  for  that 
large  mass  of  Christians  from  all  parts  of  the  Empire  that  was 

collected  in  the  capital,  the  answer  is  to  be  found  in  the  Roman 



Catacombs,"  1 — that  great  city  of  the  dead  which  lies  beneath 
the  soil  of  the  immediate  suburbs  of  imperial  Rome.  This  city 
of  the  dead  certainly  contains  several  hundred  miles  of  streets 
of  tombs,  and  the  tombs  at  least  contain  three  or  more  millions 
of  silent  dwellers  ! 

In  this  resting-place  of  the  dead  the  community  of  Rome, 
by  far  the  greatest  of  the  Christian  churches  who  professed 
the  faith  of  Jesus,  for  some  two  centuries  and  a  half  reverently 
laid  their  dear  ones  as  they  passed  from  the  stir  of  busy  restless 
Roman  life  into  the  unseen  world.  There  in  these  Catacombs 
they  used  to  pray  often,  very  often  in  the  years  of  persecution  ; 
there  they  used  to  hear  the  teaching  of  Duty,  of  Hope  and  Faith 
from  the  lips  of  some  chosen  master,  and  it  is  from  the  words 
written  orgraven  upon  the  innumerable  tombs  in  the  Catacombs 
that  we  gather  what  was  the  real  belief  of  these  early  congrega 
tions — what  their  sure  hopes  and  aspirations.  In  these  silent 
streets,  on  the  walls  of  the  countless  sepulchral  chambers,  they 
loved  to  paint  pictures  and  to  grave  short  epitaphs  telling  of 
these  same  cherished  hopes.  Some  of  these  pictures  and 
epitaphs,  often  dim  and  discoloured,  often  mutilated,  are  with 
us  still.  Not  a  few  of  the  artists  who  worked  there  were 
evidently  men  of  no  mean  power  in  their  noble  craft. 

Ruined,  desecrated,  spoiled  though  it  now  is,  with  only 
comparatively  small  portions  accessible  at  all — what  a  treasure- 
house  for  the  scholar  is  this  silent  group  of  cemeteries  ! 

A  careful  study  of  the  more  recent  discoveries  in  the  Cata 
combs  throws  much  light  on  the  opinions  and  thoughts  of  the 
Christians  of  the  first  and  second  centuries,  showing  us  that  the 
current  of  early  Christian  thought  not  unfrequently  ran  in  a 
somewhat  different  channel  to  the  stream  of  thoughts  presented 
to  us  by  the  contemporary  writers  of  that  very  early  period. 
It  must,  however,  be  insisted  on  that  the  cardinal  doctrines 
of  the  Faith  taught  by  the  weightiest  of  the  first  Christian 
writers  were  absolutely  identical  with  the  belief  of  the  Christians 
of  the  Roman  Catacombs.  If  anything,  the  supreme  divinity 
of  the  Son  of  God — His  love  for,  His  care  for  men,  is  emphasised 
more  emphatically,  if  it  be  possible,  in  the  silent  teaching 
than  in  the  fervid  dogmatism  of  the  great  Catholic  writers. 

1  Dean  Stanley  of  Westminster. 


To  enable  the  reader  fairly  to  grasp  something  of  the  vast 
extent,  the  nature,  and  importance  of  these  Catacombs  of 
Rome,  whose  silent  witness  to  the  "  Inner  Life  "  of  the  early 
Church  is  invoked,  this  Fourth  Book  will  give:  (i)  a  brief  descrip 
tion  of  the  way  in  which  the  investigations  into  this  wonderful 
"  City  of  the  Dead  "  in  later  years  has  been  carried  out  by 
careful  scholars  and  experts  ;  (2)  a  general  and  somewhat 
detailed  account  of  the  situation  and  features  of  the  several 
Catacombs,  dwelling  especially  on  the  more  important  of  these 
cemeteries ;  (3)  the  teaching  contained  in  the  inscriptions, 
carvings,  and  paintings  on  the  graves  in  the  Catacomb  corridors. 

PART    I 

SINCE  the  date  of  what  may  be  termed  the  rediscovery  of 
the  Catacombs  in  the  vineyard  on  the  Via  Salaria  in 
1578  1  the  work  of  excavation  and  research  in  the  streets 
of  the  City  of  the  Dead  which  lies  beneath  the  suburbs  of 
Rome  has  been  slowly  and  somewhat  fitfully  carried  on, 
exciting  generally  but  little  public  interest,  and  until  the  last 
fifty  years,  roughly  speaking,  has  been  most  mischievous  and 

It  is  probable  that  more  destruction  and  havoc  have  been 
wrought  by  the  well-meaning  but  ill-directed  efforts  of  the 
explorer  than  were  occasioned  by  the  raids  of  the  barbarians 
in  the  sixth  and  two  following  centuries  and  by  the  slow 
wear  and  sap  of  time. 

Among  these,  Bosio,  A.D.  1593-1629,  the  pioneer  of  the 
Catacomb  explorers,  occupies  one  of  the  few  honourable 
places  ;  his  method  of  working  was  in  many  respects  scientific. 
He  was  no  mere  explorer,  working  haphazard,  but  he  guided 
his  labours  by  carefully  sifting  all  the  information  he  could 
procure  of  the  past  history  of  the  vast  subterranean 
necropolis.  But,  after  all,  the  materials  of  this  history  which 

1  It  was  in  the  year  of  grace  1578  that  some  workmen  digging  out  sand  in 
a  vineyard  about  a  mile  from  Rome  on  the  Via  Salaria  came  upon  the  gallery 
of  a  subterranean  cemetery,  with  dim  paintings  and  many  ancient  inscriptions 
upon  the  walls. 

This  striking  discovery  excited  much  curiosity  at  the  time,  and  the  world 
of  Rome,  recalling  to  mind  the  long-forgotten  story  of  the  Catacombs,  became 
suddenly  conscious  that  beneath  its  suburbs  lay  a  vast  unexplored  City  of 
the  Dead. 



he  could  get  together  were  scanty  when  compared  with  the 
materials  possessed  by  scholars  of  our  day  and  time,  and  in 
consequence  many  of  the  conclusions  to  which  this  pioneer 
of  Catacomb  research  came  to  were  erroneous. 

But  in  his  manner  of  working  Bosio  had  no  successors. 
As  a  rule,  since  that  really  illustrious  scholar  and  searcher  has 
passed  away,  alas  !  a  very  different  method  has  been  with  rare 
exceptions  followed  by  explorers  of  the  Catacombs,  and  owing 
to  the  careless  and  ill-regulated  excavations  which  have  been 
fitfully  carried  on  during  some  200  and  more  years,  irreparable 
damage  has  been  done,  and  the  losses  to  this  deeply  important 
branch  of  early  Christian  history  are  simply  incalculable. 

The  general  results  of  this  unfortunate  exploration  work 
in  the  past  have  been  summarised  as  follows  : 

During  this  long  period — roughly  from  A.D.  1629  to  about 
the  middle  of  the  nineteenth  century,  some  220  years — the 
chief  object  and  aim  of  Catacomb  exploration  were  to  procure 
relics ;  when  these  were  once  carried  away,  no  heed  was 
paid  to  the  crypts,  or  to  the  streets  of  graves.  The  records 
of  the  excavations  kept  were  scanty  and  utterly  insignificant, 
and  each  Catacomb  from  which  the  relics  were  taken  was 
left  in  a  state  of  utter  ruin  and  deplorable  confusion.  The 
result  of  these  searchings  of  220  years  has  been  that  few  dis 
coveries  were  made  of  any  real  importance  to  early  Christian 
history  or  archaeology.  At  last  De  Rossi,  in  the  middle  years 
of  the  nineteenth  century,  took  in  hand  seriously  the  study 
and  scientific  exploration  of  the  vast  Christian  necropolis  of 

De  Rossi  was  the  friend  and  pupil  of  Father  Marchi, 
an  indefatigable  student  of  the  Catacombs  who  was  really  im 
pressed  with  the  possibilities  of  a  more  careful  exploration 
than  had  hitherto  been  undertaken.  Marchi's  real  title  to 
honour  will  ever  be  that  he  imbued  his  pupil  with  a  passionate 
love  of  the  work  to  which  he  has  devoted  a  long  and  strenuous 

The  great  City  of  the  Dead,  largely  thanks  to  De  Rossi's 
lifelong  labours,  is  to  us  something  far  more  than  a  vast 
museum  of  inscriptions  and  memorials,  the  work  of  the  Chris 
tian  congregations  in  Rome  during  the  first  two  and  a  half 


centuries  which  followed  the  preaching  and  martyrdom  of 
SS.  Peter  and  Paul.  It  is  true  that  most  important  is  the 
testimony  of  these  precious  relics  to  the  earliest  popular 
estimate  of  Christianity  :  we  shall  dwell  later  on  the  wonder 
ful  witness  which  the  numberless  inscriptions  and  strange 
emblems  painted  and  graven  on  the  tombs  bear  to  the  faith 
and  belief  of  the  early  Church  ;  but  the  eminent  Roman 
scholar  of  whom  we  are  speaking  has  taught  us  that  there 
was  more  than  even  the  witness  of  these  precious  inscriptions 
and  emblems  to  be  gathered  from  a  patient  study  of  the 
Catacomb  secret. 

De  Rossi  believed,  and  the  splendid  results  of  his  long 
toil  have  strikingly  verified  his  belief,  that  amidst  the  ruined 
and  desolated  streets  of  graves  the  historic  crypts  of  the  more 
famous  and  illustrious  martyrs  of  Christ,  of  the  men  and 
women  who  during  the  first  two  centuries  and  a  half  through 
pain  and  agony  passed  to  their  rest  and  won  their  crowns, 
could  be  found  and  identified,  and  that  thus  a  new  and  striking 
proof  would  be  furnished  of  the  truth  of  much  of  the  martyr 
story  of  the  early  Church. 

The  official  records  of  well-nigh  all  the  Roman  martyrdoms 
of  the  age  of  persecution,  we  know,  were  destroyed  by  the 
imperial  government  in  the  days  of  Diocletian.  The  martyr- 
ologies  or  histories  of  these  heroes  and  heroines  of  the 
faith  of  Jesus  which  have  come  down  to  us,  it  is  well  known, 
were  with  a  few  notable  exceptions  for  the  most  part  largely 
composed  some  two  or  even  more  centuries  after  the  events 
they  relate  had  happened,  and  have  in  consequence  been 
treated  by  careful  Christian  scholars  as  not  dependable  sources 
of  early  Christian  history  ;  this  has  been  conceded  by  the 
most  scholarly  of  the  devout  Christian  students. 

De  Rossi's  great  work,  however,  strange  to  say,  has 
curiously  rehabilitated  very  many  of  these  long-discredited 
martyr  stories,1  and  has  clearly  shown  us  that  not  a  few  of 
the  more  important  of  these  have  been  absolutely  founded  on 
fact ;  of  course,  some  of  the  various  details  as  recounted  in  these 
martyrologies  are  more  or  less  legendary,  but  the  great  car 
dinal  fact  of  the  existence,  of  the  life-work  and  suffering, 

1  Refer  here  to  pp.  289-297,  "  Crypt  of  S.  Cecilia." 


and  noble  testimony  to  the  faith  sealed  with  their  life-blood, 
of  these  true  servants  of  the  adored  Master,  is  positively 
established  by  what  has  been  found  in  the  last  fifty  years 
in  the  Roman  city  of  the  Christian  dead. 

De  Rossi  and  his  companions  have  indeed  given  us  a 
perfectly  new  and  most  striking  page  in  the  history  of  this  early 
Christian  Church. 


It  will  be  of  special  interest  briefly  to  glance  over  the 
principal  portion  of  the  materials  which  De  Rossi  made  use 
of  as  his  guide  during  his  long  forty  years'  labours  in  the 
exploration  of  the  Catacombs.  First  in  order  must  be  taken 
what  may  be  termed  the  literature  bearing  on  the  City  of  the 

The  most  important  of  these  pieces  are 

1.  The  Acts  of  the    Martyrs.     These    have    already  been 
alluded  to  as  possessing,  save  in  a  few  instances,  little  historic 
authority,  as  they   were  mostly  composed  two  centuries   or 
even  more  after  the  events  which  they  purported  to  relate 
happened.     But  they  were  not  without  their  value  to  the  Cata 
comb  explorers,  for  it  must  be  remembered  that  when  these 
"  Acts  "  were  put  together  in  the  form  we  now  possess  them, 
in  the  fifth, sixth,  and  seventh  centuries,  the  Catacombs  were  still 
an  object  of  eager  pilgrimage  from  all  lands,  and  many  of  the 
details  in  these  "  Acts  "  evidently  were  based  on  an  historical 
tradition,  such  as  the  place  exactly  where  the  martyr  of  the 
"  Acts  "  was  buried  ;  such  a  detail,  for  instance,  served  as  a 
guide  to  the  explorer. 

2.  The  Martyr  ology   of  S.   Jerome — a   compilation   dating 
from  about  the  middle  of  the  sixth  century,  but  certainly 
containing  memoranda  of  an  earlier  date. 

3.  The   (so-called)   Liber  Pontificals — a  generally  reliable 
and  most  interesting  work,  the  earlier  portion  of  which  has  been 
largely  used  throughout  Western  Christendom,  certainly  since 
the  sixth  century.     The  first  part  of  this  work  contains  bio 
graphical  notices  of  the  Bishops  of  Rome  from  the  days  of  S. 
Peter  to  the  times  of  Pope  Nicholas,  A.D.  807.     The  earliest 
redaction  of  the  first  Papal  notices  in  the  Liber  Pontificalis 


which  has  come  down  to  us  was  made  towards  the  end  of 
the  fifth  century,  or  in  the  first  years  of  the  sixth.  But  it  is 
evidently  based  on  records  of  a  much  older  date  preserved 
in  the  Roman  Church. 

4.  But  what  De  Rossi  found  most  valuable  for  the  purposes 
of  his  great  work  was  a  group  of  writings  known  as  Itineraries 
of  Pilgrims.  These  were  founded  on  hand-books  composed 
for  the  use  of  devout  pilgrims  from  Britain,  Gaul,  Spain, 
Germany,  and  Switzerland, — men  and  women  who  \vere  de 
sirous  to  see  and '  to  pay  their  devotions  at  the  celebrated 
shrines  of  Rome. 

Some  five  at  least  of  these  precious  Pilgrim  Itineraries  or 
Guide-Books  to  the  more  celebrated  shrines  or  places  where 
martyrs  were  interred  in  the  vast  Roman  City  of  the  Dead 
have  come  down  to  us.  They  have  proved  of  the  highest  value 
to  De  Rossi  in  his  exploration  work.  The  first  perhaps  in  value 
of  these  is  contained  in  the  works  of  William  of  Malmesbury, 
which  treat  of  the  doings  of  the  Crusaders  in  Rome.  William 
of  Malmesbury  wrote  in  the  year  of  grace  1095.  But  the 
Itinerary  section  in  question  speaks  of  the  martyr  saints  as 
though  they  were  still  resting  in  their  Catacomb  graves,  although 
we  know  that  they  had  been  translated  into  churches  in  the 
city  about  three  centuries  earlier.  This  clearly  shows  that  the 
"  Itinerary  "  section  had  been  written  several  centuries  before 
the  writer  William  of  Malmesbury  lived  and  copied  it  into 
his  work. 

Other  Pilgrim  Itineraries  have  been  found  in  famous 
monastic  libraries,  such  as  in  the  libraries  of  Einsiedeln  and 
Salzburg.  These  may  be  roughly  dated  about  the  middle  of 
the  seventh  century, — that  is,  before  the  days  of  the  Pontificate 
of  Paul  i,  A.D.  757,  and  Paschal  i,  A.D.  817,  when  the  wholesale 
translation  of  the  remains  of  the  martyrs  from  the  Catacombs 
to  the  securer  shelter  of  the  city  churches  took  place.  These 
were  therefore  written  in  a  period  when  the  traditions  connected 
with  the  historic  crypts  and  their  venerated  contents  were  all 
comparatively  fresh  and  vivid. 

In  the  same  category  with  the  Pilgrim  Itineraries  which  the 
great  Roman  scholar  has  found  so  helpful  in  his  Catacomb 
researches  must  be  placed  the  celebrated  papyrus  preserved 


in  the  Cathedral  of  Monza.  This  is  a  contemporary  catalogue 
or  list  of  the  sacred  oils  sent  by  Pope  Gregory  the  Great 
(A.D.  590-604)  to  Theodelinda,  Queen  of  the  Lombards.  The 
Lombard  Queen  sent  a  special  messenger,  one  Abbot  John, 
to  Pope  Gregory  the  Great  asking  him  for  relics  of  the  saints 
buried  in  the  Catacombs.  At  that  period  no  portions  of  the 
sacred  bodies  were  allowed  to  be  removed,  even  at  the 
request  of  so  powerful  a  petitioner  as  Theodelinda  ;  but  as  a 
substitute  the  Pope  sent  a  little  of  the  oil  which  fed  the  lamps 
which  were  ever  kept  burning  before  the  tombs  or  shrines  of 
the  saints  in  question. 

Each  phial  containing  the  oil  was  carefully  ticketed  or 
labelled,  and  a  list  of  these  tickets  or  labels  was  written  on  this 
Monza  papyrus.  Some  sixty  or  seventy  saints'  shrines  are 
specially  enumerated,  besides  about  eight  places  mentioned 
before  which  oils  were  kept  burning,  before  tombs  which  con 
tained  a  crowd  of  unnamed  saints  and  martyrs. 

This  Monza  catalogue  of  the  sacred  oils  De  Rossi  carefully 
compared  with  the  topographical  notices  in  the  Pilgrim 
Itineraries  above  referred  to.  It  was  of  great  service  to  the 
scholar  explorer  in  discovering  and  identifying  many  of  the 
principal  sanctuaries  of  the  Catacombs. 

Another  and  quite  a  different  material  for  his  investigations 
De  Rossi  found  amidst  the  desolate  Catacombs  themselves  : 
he  noticed  that  certain  unmistakable  indications  ever  marked 
tiie  near  neighbourhood  of  some  historic  crypt. 

i.  The  existence  above  ground  of  more  or  less  ruined 
basilicas  of  various  dimensions, — in  some  cases  showing  the 
remains  of  a  considerable  building,  in  others  of  a  comparatively 
small  edifice  as  of  a  chapel  or  an  oratory.  Such  a  ruined  building 
evidently  pointed  to  there  being  beneath  the  soil,  at  times  deep 
down,  an  historic  crypt  of  importance.  Such  a  small  basilica 
or  oratory  had  no  doubt  been  built  after  the  Peace  of  the 
Church  in  the  middle  or  latter  years  of  the  fourth  or  in  the  fifth 
century,  when  pilgrimage  to  the  shrines  of  the  saints  and 
martyrs  had  become  the  fashion.  It  was  intended  to  accom 
modate  the  ever-growing  crowds  who  came  often  from  distant 
countries  to  pray  near  and  to  venerate  the  saints  and  martyrs 
whose  remains  lay  buried  in  the  crypt  immediately  beneath. 


2.  The  remains,  more  or  less  perfect,  of  a  staircase  or  stair 
cases  leading  down  to  the  sacred  crypt  containing  a  tomb  of 
some  great  confessor  known  and  honoured  in   the   tradition 
of  the  Church. 

3.  The  presence  of  a  "luminare"  or  shaft,  sometimes  of 
considerable  size,  which  was  constructed  to  give  light  and  air 
to  a  subterranean  chamber  in  the  Catacombs,  indicated  that  in 
the  immediate  neighbourhood  of  the  "  luminare  "  an  historic 
crypt  had  once  existed.     These  openings  or  shafts  were  mostly 
the  work  of  Pope  Damasus  and  his  successors  in  the  latter 
years  of  the  fourth  and  in  the  earlier  years  of  the  fifth  centuries. 

4.  Below — in  some  of  the  ruined  corridors  of  tombs  and 
in  certain  of  the  cubicula  or  separate  chambers  leading  out 
of  the  corridors — on  the  walls  a  number  of  "  graffiti  "   or 
inscriptions,  often  very  rudely  graved  or  painted,  are  visible, 
some  of  the  inscriptions  or  questions  being  simply  a  name, 
others  containing  a  brief  prayer  for  the  writer  or  for  one 
dear  to  the  writer.     It  was  evident  that  the  presence  of  sutii 
inscriptions   indicated   the   immediate   neighbourhood   of  an 
historic  crypt  which  once  contained  the  remains  of  a  revered 
"  great    one," — not   unfrequently   the   name    of   the    "  great 
one  "  was  included  in  some  of  the  graffiti. 

Such  "  graffiti  "  were  clearly  the  work  of  the  many  pilgrims 
to  the  Catacombs  in  the  fifth  and  following  centuries. 

5.  In  certain  of  the  cubicula  or  separate  chambers  leading 
out  of  the  corridors,  remains  of  paintings,  evidently  of  a  period 
much  later  than  the  original  Catacomb  work,  are  discernible 
—paintings  which  belong  to  the  Byzantine  rather  than  to 
any  classical  school  of  art,  and  which  cannot  be  dated  earlier 
than  the  sixth  or  seventh  centuries.     The  existence  of  such 
later   decorative   work    clearly   indicated    that    the    spot    so 
adorned  was  one  of  traditional  sanctity,  and  no  doubt  had 
been  the  resting-place  of  a  venerated  saint  and  martyr. 

6.  In    his    "  materials "    for    the    identification    of    the 
historic   crypts   De   Rossi    found    the    inscriptions    of    Pope 
Damasus,  who  died  A.D.  384,  of  the  greatest  assistance. 

Damasus'  love  for  and  work  in  the  Catacombs  is  well 
known.  He  was  a  considerable  poet,  and  precious  fragments 
of  poetical  inscriptions  composed  by  him  have  been  found 


in  many  of  the  more  important  Catacombs  which  have  been 
explored.  These  inscriptions  were  engraved  on  marble 
tablets  by  his  friend  and  skilful  artist  Furius  Dionysius 
Filocalus  in  clear  beautiful  characters.  These  fragments 
have  been  in  many  cases  put  together,  and  where  the  broken 
pieces  were  wanting  have  been  wonderfully  restored  with  the 
aid  of  "  syllogae  "  or  collections  of  early  Christian  inscriptions 
gathered  mostly  in  the  ninth  century  by  the  industry  of  the 
monks.  These  "  syllogrc "  or  collections  have  preserved 
for  us  some  forty  of  the  inscriptions  of  Pope  Damasus  in 
honour  of  martyrs  and  confessors  buried  in  the  Catacombs. 
With  perhaps  one  solitary  exception,  they  are  all  written 
in  hexameter  verse. 

Such  collections  of  early  Christian  inscriptions  have 
been  preserved  in  the  libraries  of  such  monasteries  as 
Einsiedeln,  S.  Riquier,  S.  Gall,  etc. 

The  result  of  the  forty  years  of  De  Rossi's  researches  and 
work  in  the  Catacombs,  based  on  the  above-mentioned  histor 
ical  documents  and  on  the  evidence  derived  from  what  he 
found  in  the  ruined  corridors  of  tombs  and  the  chambers 
leading  out  of  them,  has  been  that,  whereas  before  his  time 
at  most  three  important  historical  crypts  were  known,  now 
already  more  than  fifteen  1  of  these  have  been  clearly  identified, 
a  wonderful  and  striking  proof  of  the  reality  of  the  sufferings 
and  constancy  of  the  heroes  and  heroines  of  the  faith  in  the 
first  two  hundred  and  fifty  years  of  the  existence  of  the  religion 
of  Jesus — sufferings  and  constancy  which  resulted  in  the  final 
triumph  of  Christianity. 

Briefly  to  enumerate  just  a  very  few  of  the  more  prominent 
later  historical  discoveries  which  have  lifted  much  of  the  early 
history  and  inner  life  of  the  great  Church  of  the  Roman 
congregations  from  the  domain  of  tradition  into  the  realm 
of  scientific  history — 

In  the  first  century — the  discoveries  in  the  cemeteries  of 
Domitilla  and  Priscilla.  The  long-disputed  story  of  Nereus 
and  Achilles  ;  the  existence  and  fate  of  the  two  Domitillas, 
kinswomen  of  the  imperial  house ;  the  Christianity  and 

1  Several  additional  discoveries  of  historic  crypts  have  been  made  since 
this  computation  was  made. 


martyrdom  of  the  patrician  Acilius  Glabrio  the  Consul,  have 
been  largely  authenticated. 

In  the  second  century — the  discovery  of  the  tombs  of  SS. 
Felicitas  and  Cecilia,  of  the  grave  of  S.  Januarius,  the  eldest 
son  of  Felicitas,1  substantiate  the  existence  and  death  of  the 
famous  martyrs,  whose  very  existence  has  been  doubted 
even  by  earnest  Christian  students,  and  whose  life-story  has 
been  generally  relegated  to  the  sphere  of  religious  romance. 

In  the  early  years  of  the  third  century — the  wonderful 
"  find  "  of  the  Papal  Crypt  in  the  Callistus  Cemetery,  and  the 
ruined  remains  of  the  tombs  of  several  of  the  Bishops  of  Rome, 
confessors  and  martyrs,  bear  irrefragable  testimony  to  the 
truth  of  records  of  early  Christian  history,  and  set  a  seal 
upon  tradition  hitherto  only  held  with  but  a  half-hearted 
confidence.  In  the  middle  years  of  the  same  century  the 
identification  of  the  tombs  of  Agnes  and  her  foster-sister 
Emerentiana  re-placed  in  the  pages  of  serious  history  scenes 
often  quoted  in  early  martyrology,  but  which  competent 
Christian  critics  had  long  relegated  to  the  region  of  the  merely 
legendary.  The  exploration  and  labours  of  De  Rossi  and  his 
band  of  fellow-workers  and  pupils  have  also  thrown  a  flood 
of  light  on  the  days  of  the  fierce  continuous  persecution 
of  the  Emperor  Diocletian,  and  have  opened  out  to  publicity 
a  number  of  tombs  of  nameless  martyrs  who  suffered  under 
the  iron  hand  of  imperial  Rome  in  the  bloody  times  of  that 
last  and  fiercest  of  attacks  on  Christianity.  And  besides  the 
many  nameless  graves  of  a  great  multitude  of  martyrs  and 
confessors  who  suffered  under  Diocletian,  these  explorations 
have  identified  the  tombs  of  not  a  few  of  the  more  famous 
Christian  leaders  who  witnessed  a  good  confession  at  that 
same  dread  epoch,  notably  the  resting-places  of  Peter  and 
Marcellinus,  of  the  Roman  bishops  Caius  and  Eusebius, 
of  Marcus  and  Marcellinus.  "  A  very  glorious  group  of  monu 
ments — a  group,  too,  which  we  may  well  expect  to  become 
larger  and  more  far-reaching  in  its  teaching,  for  innumerable 
crypts  are  still  waiting  to  be  explored  and  searched  out.  Each 

1  Other  tombs  of  the  famous  martyr-sons  of  Felicitas  have  since  been 
identified,  and  much  knowledge  of  this  incident  in  early  Christian  history  has 
been  brought  to  light. 


of  the  ancient  roads  leading  from  the  immemorial  capital 
of  Italy,  and  once  of  the  world  ;  each  historic  cemetery  or 
catacomb  contains  such  a  crypt  with  its  central  shrine  of 
some  once  well-known  martyr  or  illustrious  confessor  of  the 

So  writes  Marucchi,  one  of  the  foremost  of  the  living 
Roman  scholars  in  Catacomb  lore,  the  disciple  and  successor  of 
De  Rossi.  (These  words  were  written  in  the  year  of  grace  1903.) 

Following  closely  upon  the  notices  contained  in  the  Pilgrim 
Itineraries  of  the  seventh  and  eighth  centuries,  De  Rossi,  in  a 
catalogue  carefully  composed,  enumerates  thirty-seven  ceme 
teries  or  Catacombs.  Several,  however,  of  these  have  not  been 
clearly  identified.  One  or  two  of  them  are  very  small ;  while 
others,  apparently  extending  over  a  wide  area,  communicate 
with  one  another  ;  and  some  are  very  imperfectly  known,  others 
as  yet  quite  unexplored 


It  will  be  an  assistance  to  the  student  wishing  to  grasp 
something  of  the  vast  extent  of  the  great  subterranean  City 
of  the  Dead,  and  desirous  to  arrive  at  some  idea  of  the  present 
knowledge  of  the  mighty  Christian  necropolis  of  the  first  days, 
if  a  brief  sketch  of  the  known  cemeteries  and  their  more  im 
portant  crypts  is  presented. 

The  sketch  will  deal  with  each  of  the  "  Viae  "  or  public 
roads  leading  out  of  Rome,  in  the  immediate  neighbourhood 
of  which  the  different  cemeteries  or  Catacombs  have  been 
excavated, — each  public  road  having  its  own  special  group 
of  cemeteries,  lying  hard  by  beneath  the  vineyards  or  gardens 
abutting  on  the  road. 


Naturally,  the  cemetery  on  the  Vatican  Hill,  which  includes 
the  tomb  of  S.  Peter,  must  be  mentioned  first.  The  whole 
district  of  the  Vatican  in  the  days  of  Nero  (middle  years 
of  the  first  century  of  the  Christian  era)  was  covered  with 
gardens  and  villas  ;  it  communicated  directly  with  the  city  by 


means  of  the  Pons  Triumphalis,  afterwards  termed  the  Pons 
Neronianus,  and  was  traversed  by  the  Via  Triumphalis  and 
the  Via  Cornelia.  Between  these  two  roads  the  Apostle  S. 
Peter  was  buried.  The  Pilgrim  Itineraries  describe  the  sacred 
tomb  now  as  "  juxta  viam  Corneliam  " — now  as  "  juxta  viam 
Triumphalem."  Directly  over  the  apostle's  tomb1  Anacletus, 
the  Bishop  of  Rome,  third  in  succession,  erected  a  "Memoria" 
or  little  chapel.  This  "Memoria"  or  Chapel  of  Anacletus 
grew  into  the  lordly  basilica  known  subsequently  as  S.  Peter's 
at  Rome. 

The  tomb  in  question  is  situated  close  by  the  spot  where 
without  doubt  the  apostle  suffered  martyrdom  in  the  year  of 
grace  67.  Around  the  tomb  of  S.  Peter,  as  we  shall  see, 
were  buried  the  nine  or  ten  first  Bishops  or  Popes  of  Rome, 
as  well  as  other  nameless  saints  once  famous  in  the  early  years 
of  the  story  of  the  Roman  congregations. 

It  is  doubtful  if  there  wns  ever  a  Catacomb,  as  we  under 
stand  the  term,  on  the  Vatican  Hill.  No  trace  of  subterranean 
corridors,  or  of  chambers  leading  out  of  the  corridors,  have 
been  found  ;  only,  it  must  be  remembered  that  the  neighbour 
hood  of  the  tomb  of  S.  Peter  and  the  early  Bishops  of  Rome 
has  been  completely  changed  owing  to  the  excavations  neces 
sary  for  the  foundations  of  the  great  basilica  erected  over 
the  little  Memoria  of  Anacletus  by  Constantine  the  Great  in 
the  first  half  of  the  fourth  century. 


The  Via  Aurelia  Vetus  was  probably  originally  laid  out 
by  C.  Aurelius,  Censor  in  the  year  of  grace  512.  It  started 
from  the  Janiculum  (the  modern  Gate  of  S.  Pancras)  and  led 
directly  towards  the  sea-board.  It  was  the  road  from  Rome 
to  Centumcelke  (Civita  Vecchia). 

The  cemeteries  along  the  Via  Aurelia  have  been  as  yet  very 

1  The  tomb  of  S.  Peter  and  its  surroundings  will  be  described  at  length  in 
Appendix  II.,  which  follows  the  section  treating  of  the  "Catacombs,"  where 
is  related  the  thrilling  story  of  what  was  discovered  when  the  excavations 
required  for  the  support  of  the  great  bronze  canopy  of  Bernini  over  the  tomb 
of  S.  Peter  were  made  in  A.D.  1626,  in  the  pontificate  of  Urban  vm. 
(Appendix  II.,  S.  Peter,  pp.  279-88.) 


imperfectly  explored.1  The  ancient  Pilgrim  Itineraries 
mention  four  distinct  cemeteries  here,  (i)  That  of  SS. 
Processus  and  Martinianus,  first  century.  (2)  S.  Calepodius 
or  S.  Callistus,  third  century.  (3)  S.  Pancratius,  fourth 
century.  (4)  The  two  Felixes,  fourth  century. 

Cemetery  of  SS.  Processus  and  Martinianus. — (Apos 
tolic  age.)  Tradition  relates  that  these  saints  were  the 
gaolers  of  S.  Peter,  and  owed  their  conversion  to  their 
prisoner.  They  suffered  martyrdom  shortly  after  S.  Peter's 
death,  being  decapitated  on  the  Via  Aurelia ;  Lucina,  a 
wealthy  Roman  matron,  buried  them  in  her  garden  near  the 
place  of  their  martyrdom.  This  Lucina  was  probably  the 
same  \vho  gave  her  name  to  the  ancient  cemetery  on  the  Via 
Appia,  and  which  now  forms  part  of  the  great  network  of 
cemeteries  known  generally  as  S.  Callistus'  Catacomb. 

Very  little  is  known  of  this  Catacomb.  Among  the  net 
work  of  sepulchral  corridors  on  this  portion  of  the  Via  Aurelia 
this  special  cemetery  has  not  as  yet  been  clearly  identified. 

These  cemeteries  are  in  a  sadly  ruined  condition.  The 
loculi  which  have  been  examined  are  evidently  of  a  very  early 
period.  Marucchi,  in  pleading  for  a  more  detailed  exploration 
here,  suggests  the  probability  of  some  "  Memories  "  of  S. 
Peter  being  eventually  discovered. 

Cemetery  of  S.  Calepodius. — This  saint  appears  to  have 
been  a  priest  who  suffered  martyrdom,  probably  in  a  popular 
rising,  in  the  reign  of  Alexander  Severus  (A.D.  222-35).  This 
cemetery  is  principally  famous  as  being  the  resting-place  of 
Pope  Callistus,  who  also  suffered  in  a  popular  rising,  A.D.  222, 
and  was  laid  to  rest  in  this  cemetery,  perhaps  as  being  nearer  to 
the  scene  of  his  martyrdom  than  the  official  Papal  Crypt  on 
the  Via  Appia  to  which  he  gave  his  name.  The  exploration 
work  here,  as  far  as  it  has  gone,  has  been  carried  out  with 
difficulty  owing  to  the  ruinous  state  of  the  corridors. 

Cemetery  of  S.  Pancratius. — S.  Pancras  was  a  boy-martyr 
twelve,  or  as  some  accounts  give  fourteen  years  of  age  when  in 
A.D.  304  he  suffered  for  his  faith  in  the  Diocletian  persecution. 

This  cemetery  was  in  the  first  instance  known  under  the 
name  of  Octa villa,  a  Christian  matron  who  buried  the  young 

1  Marucchi,  Itincraire  des  Catacombes,  A.D.  1903. 


confessor  in  her  garden  on  the  Aurelian  Way.  It  had  probably 
been  a  cemetery  before  the  deposition  of  the  remains  of  the 
famous  boy-martyr  gave  it  a  new  name  and  not  a  little  celebrity. 

The  story  of  S.  Pancras  has  ever  been  an  attractive  one,  and 
a  certain  number  of  churches  named  in  his  honour  are  scattered 
over  many  lands.  A  small  basilica  was  built  over  the  crypt 
containing  his  grave.  Pope  Siricius  (end  of  fourth  century) 
restored  and  adorned  it.  Honorius  i,  A. D.  620,  rebuilt  it.  In 
the  present  Church  of  S.  Pancras  there  are  scarcely  any  traces 
of  the  original  basilica.  The  remains  of  the  martyr  have 
disappeared.  Strange  to  say,  in  the  great  translation  of  the 
ashes  of  saints  and  martyrs  by  Pope  Paul  I  and  Paschal  i, 
S.  Pancras  was  left  undisturbed  in  his  tomb.  The  corridors, 
however,  have  been  completely  wrecked,  and  have  been  very 
partially  explored. 

The  site  of  the  cemeteries  mentioned  in  the  Pilgrim 
Itineraries,  named  after  two  saints  each  bearing  the  name  of 
Felix,  has  not  been  discovered. 


This  road  leads  from  the  old  Porta  Navalis  in  the  Trastevere, 
the  city  "  across  the  Tiber/'  direct  to  Portus  the  port  of  Rome, 
a  construction  of  Claudius  when  Ostia  (Centumcellae)  was 
unable  to  cope  with  the  commerce  of  the  capital.  Three 
cemeteries,  according  to  the  ancient  Itineraries,  were  excavated 
on  the  Via  Portuensis.  That  of  Pontianus,  the  best  known  of 
the  three,  where  lie  the  remains  of  SS.  Abdon  and  Sennen  ;  and 
a  second,  nearly  five  miles  from  the  city,  the  Catacomb  of 
Generosa.  There  is  a  third,  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Felix,  the 
position  of  which  has  not  yet  been  discovered. 

The  Cemetery  of  Pontianus. — Pontianus  was  a  wealthy 
Christian  of  the  Trastevere  quarter,  who  used  in  the  second 
century — probably  in  the  latter  years  of  the  century — to 
gather  his  fellow-Christians  to  prayer  and  teaching  in  his  house. 
The  cemetery  which  bears  his  name  was  originally  excavated 
in  one  of  his  gardens.  The  old  Pilgrim  Itineraries  speak  of 
there  being  a  vast  number  of  martyrs  in  this  Catacomb — "  in- 
numerabilis  multitude  Martyrum."  Several  of  these  are 


named  ;  the  most  notable,  however,  are  the  two  noble  Persians, 
Abdon  and  Sennen,  who,  visiting  Rome  at  the  time  of  the 
persecution  of  Decius,  suffered  for  their  faith. 

In  this  Catacomb  there  is  a  well-known  ancient  baptistery 
of  considerable  size,  which  was  richly  decorated  in  the  sixth 
century.  Such  baptisteries  have  been  found  in  other  Cata 
combs,  notably  in  that  of  S.  Priscilla,  a  very  ancient  and  vast 
cemetery  which  will  be  described  with  some  detail  later. 

The  remains  of  the  more  famous  martyrs  were  removed  into 
the  city  at  the  period  of  the  great  translation  of  sacred  bodies 
in  the  ninth  century,  after  which  date  this  cemetery  ceased  to 
be  visited.  It  has  only  been  partially  explored. 

The  Cemetery  of  S.  Felix  mentioned  in  the  Itineraries  is 
completely  unknown  as  yet. 

The  Cemetery  of  Generosa,  on  the  road  to  Porta,  is  not 
alluded  to  in  the  Pilgrim  Guides,  no  doubt  owing  to  its  distance 
— some  five  miles — from  the  city.  Lanciani  gives  a  vivid 
description  of  its  story  and  of  its  discovery  in  1867.  It  is  of 
small  extent,  and  apparently  was  excavated  in  the  persecution 
of  Diocletian,  circa  A.D.  303,  in  what  was  once  a  sacred  grove 
belonging  to  the  College  of  the  Arval  Brothers,  but  which  had 
been  abandoned,  probably  after  the  dissolution  of  the  Brother 
hood,  which  is  supposed  to  have  taken  place  about  the  middle 
of  the  third  century. 



The  Via  Ostiensis,  on  the  city  side  of  the  Tiber,  one  of  the 
principal  roads  of  the  Empire,  begins  at  the  ancient  Porta 
Ostiensis,  known  from  the  sixth  century  onwards  as  the  Porta 
S.  Pauli,  and  leads  to  the  old  harbour  of  Ostia.  The  Pilgrim 
Itineraries  enumerate  three  cemeteries  as  situated  hard  by  this 
road — the  tomb  of  the  Apostle  S.  Paul  with  the  little  Cemetery 
of  Lucina,  the  Cemetery  of  Commodilla,  and  that  of  S.  Theckla. 

(i)  According  to  a  very  general  tradition,  S.  Paul  suffered 
martyrdom,  A.D.  67,  and  his  body  was  laid  in  a  tomb  on  the 
Ostian  Way  in  a  garden  belonging  to  a  Christian  lady  named 
Lucina, — some  identify  her  with  the  "  Lucina  "  of  the  Cemetery 


of  Callistus  on  the  Appian  Way.  There  it  rested,  according 
to  the  most  recent  investigations,  until  the  persecution  and 
confiscation  of  the  cemeteries  in  A.D.  258,  when  for  security's 
sake  it  was  secretly  removed  at  the  same  time  as  the  body  of  S. 
Peter  was  brought  from  the  grave  on  the  Vatican  Hill.  The 
sacred  remains  of  the  two  apostles  were  laid  in  the  "  Platonia  " 
Crypt,  in  what  was  subsequently  known  as  the  Catacomb  of 
S.  Sebastian,  on  the  Via  Appia  ;  and  probably  after  an  interval 
of  some  two  years,  when  the  cemeteries  were  restored  to  the 
Christian  congregations  by  the  Emperor  Gallerius,  the  bodies 
of  the  two  apostles  were  brought  back  again  to  their  original 

Anacletus,  the  third  in  succession  of  the  Roman  bishops, 
erected  in  the  first  century  a  small  "  Memoria  "  or  chapel  over 
the  tomb  of  S.  Paul,  like  the  one  he  built  over  the  tomb  of 
S.  Peter  on  the  Vatican  Hill. 

In  the  year  324-5  the  first  Christian  Emperor,  Constant ine, 
over  the  apostle's  tomb  and  little  "  Memoria/'  caused  the 
first  important  basilica,  known  as  S.  Paul's,  to  be  erected ;  the 
Emperor  treated  the  loculus  or  sarcophagus  of  S.  Paul  in  the 
same  manner  as  he  had  treated  the  sarcophagus  of  S.  Peter, 
enclosing  it  in  a  solid  bronze  coffin,  on  which  he  laid  a  cross  of 
gold.  When  the  basilica  was  rebuilt,  after  the  fire  of  A.D.  1813, 
a  marble  slab,  which  apparently  was  a  part  of  the  vaulted  roof 
of  the  original  sepulchral  chamber  of  the  apostle,  came  to  light. 
On  this  slab,  or  rather  slabs  of  marble,  which  now  lie  directly 
under  the  altar,  are  engraved  the  simple  words  Pavlo  Apostolo 
Mart :  the  inscription  evidently  dating  from  the  days  of 
Constantine  (A.D.  324-5).  No  further  investigation  of  the 
tomb  was  permitted.  It  is  believed  that  the  bronze  sarco 
phagus  with  its  sacred  contents,  with  the  golden  cross,  lie 
immediately  under  the  solid  masonry  upon  which  the  slab  of 
marble  we  have  been  speaking  of  rests. 

On  the  slab  of  marble  in  question,  besides  the  simple  in 
scription  above  quoted,  are  three  apertures  :  the  most  im 
portant  of  these  is  circular ;  it  is,  in  fact,  a  little  well,  and  is 
23^  inches  in  depth,  and  was  no  doubt  originally  what  is 
termed  the  "  billicum  confessionis,"  through  which  hand 
kerchiefs  and  other  objects  were  lowered,  so  as  to  be  hallowed 


by  resting  for  a  brief  space  on  the  sarcophagus  when  access 
to  the  vault  itself  was  not  permitted.  The  other  two 
apertures  or  little  wells  are  only  12 1  and  8  inches  deep 
respectively.  It  is  not  known  for  what  purpose  these  two 
were  intended. 

The  history  of  the  famous  basilica  is  as  follows.  Lanciani 
writes  how  "  wonder  has  been  manifested  at  the  behaviour 
of  Constantine  the  Great  towards  S.  Paul,  whose  basilica 
at  the  second  milestone  of  the  Via  Ostiensis  appears  like  a 
pigmy  structure  in  comparison  with  that  which  he  erected  over 
the  tomb  of  S.  Peter.  Constantine  had  no  intention  of  placing 
S.  Paul  in  an  inferior  rank,  or  of  showing  less  honour  to  his 
memory."  In  his  original  design  which  he  carried  out,  the 
high  road  to  Ostia  ran  close  by  the  grave  ;  thus  the  space  at 
his  disposal  was  limited.  But  before  the  fourth  century  had 
run  out  it  was  imperatively  felt  that  the  Church  of  S.  Paul 
ought  to  be  equal  in  size  and  beauty  to  that  on  the  Vatican 
Hill  :  so,  in  rebuilding  the  basilica  the  original  plan  was 
changed  by  the  Emperor  Valentinian  n.,  in  A.D.  386.  The 
tomb  and  the  altar  above  it  were  left  undisturbed,  a  great 
arch  was  raised  above  the  altar,  and  westwards  from  that 
point,  in  the  direction  of  the  Tiber,  a  vast  church  was  built. 
The  great  work  was  continued  by  Theodosius  and  completed 
by  Honorius,  and  the  splendid  decorative  work  finally  carried 
out  by  Honorius'  sister,  the  famous  Placidia,  who  died  in 
A.D.  450.  Certain  Popes,  notably  Gregory  the  Great,  and 
later  Honorius  in,  in  A.D.  1226,  added  to  the  decorations  of 

There  was  evidently  in  very  early  times  a  cemetery  around 
the  crypt  which  contained  the  body  of  S.  Paul ;  this  was  the 
original  Cemetery  of  Lucina.  But  it  has  been  disturbed  by 
the  subsequent  erection  of  the  Basilica  of  Constantine,  and 
later  by  the  far  larger  church  begun  under  Valentinian  n. 
It  is  hoped  that  a  future  careful  exploration  of  the  cemetery 
will  bring  to  light  much  that  is  at  present  unknown. 

(2)  Cemetery  of  Commodilla — is  situated  on  the  left  of 
the  Via  Ostiensis  on  the  road  of  the  Seven  Churches.  Com 
modilla  was  evidently  a  wealthy  Roman  lady  who,  like  many 
other  Christians  of  position  and  means,  gave  up  her  garden 


to  the  Christian  dead.  Nothing,  however,  is  known  of  her 

Two  martyrs,  SS.  Felix  and  Adauctus,  once  well  known 
in  Christian  story,  were  interred  here.  They  belong  to  the 
time  of  Diocletian.  This  Catacomb,  apparently  of  consider 
able  extent,  is  only  very  imperfectly  known.  The  Martyr- 
ologies  mention  other  "  confessors "  buried  here,  but  the 
corridors  are  either  earthed  up  or  are  in  a  state  of  ruin  and 
confusion,  and  any  thorough  investigation  would  be  a  costly 
and  difficult  piece  of  work. 

(3)  Cemetery  of  5.  Thekla. — Nothing  is  known  of  the 
martyr  who  has  given  her  name  to  this  Catacomb  ;  who 
must  not,  however,  be  confounded  with  the  celebrated  saint 
of  the  same  name  who  belongs  to  Lycaonia,  and  is  tradition 
ally  connected  with  S.  Paul.  This  cemetery  has  been  but 
imperfectly  examined  as  yet ;  its  extent  is  unknown. 


The  Via  Ardeatina  lies  a  little  distance  to  the  right  of  the 
Via  Appia,  from  which  it  branches  off  close  to  the  Church  of 
"  Domine  quo  vadis,"  the  traditional  scene  of  the  appearance 
of  the  Lord  to  S.  Peter.  In  the  immediate  neighbourhood 
of  the  Via  Ardeatina  and  the  Via  Appia  lie,  roughly  speaking 
scarcely  two  miles  from  the  city,  the  wonderful  group  of  ceme 
teries  generally  known  under  the  names  of  Domitilla  and 
Callistus.  These  include  the  Cemetery  of  Lucina — really  an 
area  of  Callistus,  the  Cemeteries  of  SS.  Marcus  and  Balbinus 
and  also  that  of  S.  Soteris.  This  enormous  network  of  sub 
terranean  corridors,  chambers,  and  chapels  are  all  more  or 
less  united  by  passages  and  corridors  (though  this  is  not  quite 
certain)  ;  but  much  is  as  yet  unexplored,  and  the  line?  of  de 
marcation  between  the  several  Catacombs  uncertain.  Recent 
careful  investigations  of  De  Rossi,  Armellini,  Marucchi,  and 
others  less  known  have,  however,  led  to  the  discovery  of  certain 
great  and  notable  historic  crypts,  centres  round  which  the 
network  of  corridors  are  grouped.  These  identifications  have 
thrown  a  flood  of  light  upon  the  very  early  history  of  the 
numerous  and  influential  Roman  congregations ;  much  that 


was  supposed  to  be  purely  legendary  and  fabulous  has  passed, 
as  we  have  observed,  into  the  domain  of  real  history.  Very 
briefly  we  will  touch  on  a  few  of  the  more  remarkable 
"  rinds." 

Cemetery  of  Domitilla. — The  famous  group  of  Catacombs 
known  under  this  general  title — perhaps  with  the  sole  excep 
tion  of  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla  and  the  Cemetery  of 
S.  Callistus,  hereafter  to  be  described,  is  the  vastest  of  all 
the  Catacombs ;  and  with  the  exceptions  just  alluded  to,  in 
some  of  its  areas,  the  oldest  in  point  of  date. 

Much  of  this  great  cemetery  dates  from  the  time  of  men 
who  knew  the  Apostles  Peter  and  Paul. 

Its  grandeur. — It  was  the  burying-place  of  certain  Christian 
members  of  the  imperial  house  of  Vespasian,  Titus,  and 
Domitian  in  the  days  of  their  power,  and  it  tells  us  with  no 
uncertain  voice  that  in  the  ranks  of  the  Christian  congregation 
of  Rome  in  the  very  first  days  were  members  drawn  from 
the  highest  ranks  of  the  proudest  aristocracy  of  the  world, 
and  who  did  not  shrink  from  sharing  the  same  seats  in  the 
Christian  prayer  homes  with  the  slave  and  the  little  trader. 

Writing  of  the  DomitiDa  Cemetery  in  1903,  Marucchi  does 
not  hesitate  to  style  it  perhaps  the  most  important  of  all 
the  Catacombs  ;  but,  "  alas  !  "  he  goes  on  to  say,  "  it  has  been 
terribly  ravaged  by  comparatively  modern  explorers."  These 
destructive  explorations  have  sadly  affected  the  importance 
which  the  Catacomb  and  its  several  divisions,  or  areas,  would 
have  possessed  as  a  great  monument  of  very  early  Christian 
history,  had  these  recent  excavations  been  carried  out  with 
due  care  and  reverence. 

Roughly,  the  Cemetery  of  Domitilla  is  composed  of  three 
distinct  divisions  or  areas.  The  first,  the  work  of  the  first 
and  second  centuries.  In  this  area  there  are  several  famous 
historical  centres,  e.g.  the  tombs  of  the  two  saints  Nereus 
and  Achilles,  and  of  the  once  famous  S.  Petronilla,  and  the 
well-known  entrance  or  vestibule  which  opens  on  the  Via 
Ardeatina,  and  the  Chapel  or  Chamber  of  Ampliatus.  The 
second  area  is  the  work  of  the  third  century,  and  the  third 
dates  from  the  last  years  of  the  third  and  the  first  quarter 
of  the  fourth.  These  areas  have  been  connected  with  corridors 

f  •-- 


of  different  periods  in  the  second,  third,  and  fourth  centuries  ; 
the  whole  network  is  of  very  great  extent. 

At  the  end  of  the  sixth  century,  in  the  Pontificate  of 
Siricius,  great  damage  was  occasioned  to  much  of  the  earlier 
part  of  the  cemetery  by  the  construction  of  the  Basilica  of 
S.  Petronilla,  a  building  which  also  bears  the  names  of  Nereus 
and  Achilles. 

The  fame  of  these  early  martyrs  and  the  number  of  pil 
grims  to  their  shrines  in  the  closing  years  of  the  fourth  century, 
induced  Pope  Siricius — regardless  of  the  mischief  which  such 
a  work  would  occasion  to  the  many  unknown  graves  of  an 
early  period — to  build  a  somewhat  large  church  or  basilica 
over  the  tombs  of  SS.  Nereus  and  Achilles  and  S.  Petronilla. 
The  position  of  the  tombs  of  these  two  saints  has  been  ascer 
tained  ;  the  grave  of  Petronilla  has  also  been  localized  with 
fair  certainty.  The  high  altar  of  the  fourth-century  basilica 
was  placed  over  the  graves  of  the  two  martyrs  ;  the  remains 
of  Petronilla  lay  in  a  chamber  behind  the  apse  of  the  basilica  ; 
without,  of  course,  maintaining  the  accuracy  of  the  details 
of  the  sixth-century  martyrology  of  Nereus  and  Achilles, 
the  discoveries  in  the  Cemetery  of  Domitilla  have  established 
the  fact  of  the  existence  of  these  two  traditional  saints  and 
martyrs.  Scholars  recognize  now  that  much  of  the  sixth- 
century  martyrology  was  founded  upon  dependable  tradition. 

The  much  disputed  tradition  of  Petronilla,  the  wanderings 
of  her  body,  and  the  question  whether  or  not  she  was  the 
daughter  of  S.  Peter,  is  discussed  in  Appendix  I.,  p.  277,  where 
the  story  of  her  tomb  is  told  at  some  length. 

The  crypt  of  Ampliatus — another  of  the  historic  centres 
of  this  great  catacomb,  is  situated  in  the  middle  of  the  area 
or  district  originally  occupied  by  the  tornbs  of  the  Christian 
members  of  the  Imperial  Flavian  House.  The  decorations 
of  the  sepulchral  chambers  here  and  the  style  of  inscriptions 
belong  to  the  first  century  and  first  half  of  the  second. 

In  one  of  the  carefully  decorated  crypts  of  the  Flavian 
family  is  an  arched  tomb  with  the  word  "  Ampliatus  "  graven 
on  marble  in  characters  which  belong  to  a  very  early  period. 
De  Rossi,  after  examining  the  question  at  some  length,  con 
cludes  that  this  grave  can  be  with  very  high  probability 


considered  to  be  the  sleeping-place  of  the  remains  of  the 
Ampliatus  loved  of  S.  Paul  (Rom.  xvi.  8).  The  name  is 
clearly  that  of  a  slave  or  freedman  ;  subsequently  the  name 
(Ampliatus)  became  the  recognized  surname  of  the  various 
members  of  the  family  and  their  descendants.  It  seems 
strange  on  first  thoughts  that  one  of  servile  rank  should 
occupy  a  tomb  of  considerable  importance  in  the  very  heart 
of  a  Christian  cemetery  belonging  to  so  great  a  House.  This 
is  no  doubt  explained  by  the  fact  that  this  Ampliatus  occupied 
some  very  distinguished  position  in  the  early  Christian  com 
munity  at  Rome.  De  Rossi  concludes  from  this,  that  Ampli 
atus  was  most  probably  the  friend  of  S.  Paul ;  this  would 
account  for  the  estimation  in  which  this  person  of  servile 
origin  was  held  by  the  noblest  of  the  Roman  Christian  Houses. 


On  the  Via  Appia—  "  the  Queen  of  Ways  "  as  it  was  termed 
—there  are  four  groups  of  cemeteries  in  close  proximity.  Two 
of  these  groups,  probably  three,  are  linked  together  by  cor 

The  "  Via  Appia  "  led  from  the  ancient  Porta  Capena 
through  Albano,  Aricia,  etc.,  on  to  Capua,  and  later  it  was 
continued  to  Brindisi.  Three  of  the  four  groups  of  cemeteries 
or  catacombs  coming  from  Rome  are  on  the  right  of  the  way  : 
the  cemetery  of  S.  Callistus,  of  S.  Sebastian  ("  ad  Catacombas"), 
of  S.  Soteris ;  and  on  the  left  that  of  Prsetextatus. 

We  have  alluded  above  to  the  ancient  Pilgrim  Itineraries 
as  giving  a  sure  index  to  De  Rossi  in  his  investigation  and 
exploration  work.  As  an  example  we  append  a  short  extract 
from  the  older  of  the  two  Pilgrim  Guides  known  as  the  Salz 
burg  Itinerary,  which  dates  from  about  the  year  of  grace 
625  :  "  You  come  by  the  Appian  Way  to  S.  Sebastian 
Martyr,  whose  body  lies  deep  down  ;  there  too  are  the  sepul 
chres  of  the  Apostles  Peter  and  Paul,  in  which  they  rested 
for  40  years.  .  .  .  North  on  the  same  Appian  Way  you  come 
to  the  Martyrs  Tiburtius,  Valerianus,  and  Maximus.  When 
there  you  pass  into  a  large  crypt  and  you  find  S.  Urban, 


Martyr  and  Confessor ;  in  another  spot  Felicissimus  and 
Agapitus,  Martyrs ;  in  a  third  place,  Cyrinus  Martyr  ;  in  a 
fourth,  Januarius  Martyr.  On  the  same  way  you  find  S. 
Cecilia  and  a  countless  multitude  of  martyrs  ('  ibi  innumera- 
bilis  multitude  Martyrum'),  Sixtus  Pope  and  Martyr,  Dionysius 
Pope  and  Martyr,  Julianus  Pope  and  Martyr,  Flavianus 
Pope  and  Martyr.  There  are  80  martyrs  resting  there. 
Zephyrinus  Pope  and  Martyr  rests  above  Eusebius  ;  and  Cor 
nelius  Pope  and  Martyr  rests  in  a  crypt  a  little  further  off ; 
and  then  you  come  to  the  holy  Virgin  and  Martyr  Soteris." 

Comparing  the  various  Pilgrim  Guides  together,  De  Rossi 
found  that,  with  very  minor  differences  in  the  details,  they 
agreed  wonderfully ;  and  in  the  main,  although  composed 
a  thousand  to  thirteen  hundred  years  ago,  he  was  able  with 
their  help  to  identify  the  principal  shrines  visited  by  the 
pilgrim  crowds  of  the  sixth  and  two  following  centuries. 

(i)  The  Cemetery  of  S.  Sebastian  ("  ad  Catacombas  ")  is  situ 
ated  on  the  Via  Appia,  right-hand  side  ;  about  one  and  a  half 
miles  from  the  Porta  S.  Sebastiana  (the  ancient  Porta  Appia). 
The  principal  "  memory  "  belonging  to  this  catacomb  is  the 
Platonia  chamber — so  called  from  its  having  been  lined  with 
marble — in  which  for  a  brief  season  were  deposited  the  bodies 
of  the  two  Apostles  SS.  Peter  and  Paul.  The  fact  of  this 
chamber  having  been  the  temporary  home  of  the  sacred 
bodies  is  undisputed  ;  the  exact  date  of  their  having  been 
placed  there,  and  the  length  of  the  period  during  which  they 
were  left  in  the  Platonia  chamber  in  question,  have  been  the 
subject  of  much  controversy.  The  period  of  forty  years 
mentioned  in  the  above  quoted  Pilgrim  Itinerary  is  now 
reduced  by  the  most  dependable  of  modern  scholars  to  two 
years,  and  the  date  of  the  placing  of  the  bodies  in  this  spot 
is  now  generally  assumed  to  have  been  A.D.  258,  in  the  days 
of  the  short  but  bitter  persecution  of  Valerian,  when  the 
tombs  on  the  Vatican  Hill  and  on  the  Via  Ostiensis  were  not 
considered  safe  from  outrage.  When  the  active  persecu 
tion  ceased,  the  remains  of  the  two  apostles  were  restored 
to  their  original  resting-places  ;  the  spot,  however,  where 
the  sacred  bodies  had  rested  for  a  brief  season  assumed  in 
the  eyes  of  the  faithful  a  singular  sanctity,  and  very  many 


desired  to  be  laid  in  the  immediate  neighbourhood  of  the 
hallowed  place.  This  was  no  doubt  the  original  reason  for 
the  formation  of  the  Cemetery  "  ad  Catacombas/'  the  name 
of  the  little  district  in  which  the  temporary  tomb  of  the  two 
apostles  was  situated. 

The  catacomb  in  question  was  eventually  named  after 
Sebastian,  a  brave  confessor  in  the  persecution  of  Diocletian, 
circa  A.D.  289-303.  This  Sebastian  was  tribune  in  the 
first  cohort  and  commanded  a  company  of  the  Praetorians, 
which  was  stationed  on  guard  on  the  Palatine.  He  died  for 
his  faith  under  circumstances  of  a  peculiar  dramatic  in 
terest,  being  pierced  with  arrows  and  cruelly  scourged.  His 
body,  so  runs  the  probably  true  story,  was  taken  out  of  the 
common  sewer,  into  which  it  was  ignominiously  thrown,  by 
a  Christian  matron  named  Lucina,  who  reverently  interred 
it  in  the  Cemetery  "  ad  Catacombas  "  in  the  neighbourhood 
of  the  sacred  Platonia  chamber. 

The  remains  of  S.  Sebastian  were  removed  in  the  seven 
teenth  century  by  Cardinal  Borghesi  from  the  crypt  in  which 
they  were  originally  deposited  and  re  interred  in  the  modern 
chapel  which  was  erected  over  the  ancient  sanctuary.  During 
the  Middle  Ages,  when  owing  to  the  raids  of  the  barbarians 
and  consequent  translation  of  the  more  celebrated  martyrs 
to  churches  within  the  city,  the  eventful  story  of  the  cata 
combs  was  forgotten,  this  cemetery,  owing  to  its  connection 
\vith  the  two  great  apostles,  was  ever  a  hallowed  sanctuary, 
and  was  visited  by  an  unbroken  stream  of  pilgrim  visitors,  and 
after  the  rediscovery  of  the  City  of  the  Dead  in  the  sixteenth 
and  seventeenth  centuries,  gave  the  name  of  its  now  famous 
district  "  ad  Catacombas "  to  the  various  subterranean 
cemeteries  which  from  time  to  time  since  then  have  been 

The  corridors  with  their  graves  in  this  famous  cemetery 
have  not  yet  been  fully  excavated. 

The  Cemetery  of  5.  Callistus. — The  great  group  of  cata 
combs  generally  known  under  the  title  "  S.  Callistus "  is 
situated  on  the  right  of  the  Via  Appia,  about  a  quarter  of  a 
mile  nearer  Rome  than  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Sebastian  ("ad 
Catacombas  ")  just  described  ;  the  usual  entrance  being  about 

^  o 


one  and  a  quarter  miles  from  the  Porta  S.  Sebastiana  (Porta 

It  is  composed  of  several  groups  of  cemeteries  of  different 
periods  from  the  first  century  to  the  fourth.  These  groups 
are  so  united  by  corridors  that  they  may  be  considered  as  one 
vast  catacomb.  The  Cemetery  of  Callistus  in  part  dates 
from  the  first  century,  but  it  only  obtained  the  designation  of 
"  Callistus  "  in  the  last  years  of  the  second  or  in  the  first  years 
of  the  third  century,  when  Callistus  the  deacon  was  appointed 
by  Zephyrinus  the  Bishop  of  Rome  as  superintendent  of  The 
Cemetery.  Subsequently  Callistus  succeeded  Zephyrinus  as 
bishop,  and  greatly  enlarged  the  original  area,  one  chambei 
of  which  he  set  apart  as  the  official  burying-place  of  the 
bishops  or  popes  of  Rome.  Before  the  time  of  Callistus 
the  official  burying-place  of  the  bishops  was  the  cemetery 
on  the  Vatican  Hill,  immediately  contiguous  to  the 
sepulchre  of  S.  Peter.  At  the  end  of  the  second  century 
the  limited  space  on  the  Vatican  Hill  was  completely  oc 
cupied — hence  the  necessity  for  arranging  a  new  papal  crypt. 

The  oldest  portion  of  the  "  Callistus  "  group  is  the  so- 
called  Crypt  of  Lucina  (first  and  second  century).  It  was 
evidently  in  the  first  instance  excavated  in  the  property  of 
the  noble  family  of  the  Caecilii,  and  was  used  as  the  burying- 
place  of  Christian  members  of  that  great  House.  De  Rossi 
believes  that  the  "  Lucina  "  in  whose  land  the  crypt  was 
originally  arranged  was  no  other  than  the  well-known  Pomponia 
Graecina,  wife  of  Plautius,  the  famous  general  in  the  days  of 
Nero,  whose  conversion  to  Christianity  about  the  year  of 
grace  58  is  alluded  to  in  scarcely  veiled  language  by  Tacitus. 
If  this  be  the  case,  the  name  "  Lucina  "  was  assumed  by  the 
great  lady  in  question,  and  by  which  she  was  generally  known 
in  Christian  circles.  The  assuming  of  such  an  "  agnomen  " 
was  not  uncommon  among  Roman  ladies.  The  original  area  of 
the  Cemetery  of  Lucina  was  greatly  enlarged  in  the  days  of  the 
Emperor  Marcus  and  in  the  last  years  of  the  second  century. 
The  chapel  of  the  popes,  above  alluded  to,  and  other  important 
funereal  chambers,  are  included  in  this  enlarged  area. 

It  was  in  the  course  of  the  third  century,  no  doubt 
after  the  construction  of  the  new  crypt  or  chapel  of  the 


popes1  by  Callistus,  and  of  course  in  part  owing  to  the 
presence  of  this  great  historical  centre,  that  the  cemetery 
assumed  its  grandiose  proportions. 

The  Cemetery  of  S.  Soteris,  a  vast  catacomb,  com 
municates  with  the  older  portion  of  the  Callistus  crypt  and 
corridors.  Much  is  as  yet  unexplored  here.  S.  Soteris— 
virgin  and  martyr — who  has  given  her  name  to  this  great 
cemetery,  was  buried  "  in  Cemeterio  suo,"  A.D.  304. 
She  suffered  when  the  persecution  of  Diocletian  was  raging. 

What  we  have  termed  the  group,  included  generally  under 
the  term  of  the  Callistus  Catacomb,  is  the  largest  and  most  exten 
sive  of  the  catacombs  which  lie  on  the  great  roads  which  run 
through  the  suburbs  and  immediate  neighbourhood  of  Rome. 

The  discovery  of  this  important  area  of  the  ancient 
Christian  City  of  the  Dead  was  made  in  the  year  1849,  when 
De  Rossi  found  in  an  old  vineyard  bordering  on  the  Via  Appia 
a  fragment  of  an  inscription  bearing  the  letters  "  NELIUS 
Martyr."  The  Itineraries  had  recorded  that  Cornelius,  Bishop 
of  Rome  and  Martyr,  had  been  buried  in  the  "  Callistus  " 
Cemetery.  In  the  course  of  subsequent  searches  the  other 
portion  of  the  broken  tablet  was  found,  which  completed  the 
inscription  "  Cornelius  Martyr."  The  vineyard  was  purchased 
by  Pope  Pius  ix,  and  very  soon  the  searchers  came  upon  the 
ruined  chapel  of  the  popes  and  the  crypt  of  S.  Cecilia. 

The  position  of  the  historic  Callistus  Catacomb  was  thus 
established  beyond  doubt,  and  for  some  fifty  years,  portions 
of  the  great  cemetery  have  been  slowly  excavated  by  De 
Rossi  and  his  companions  ;  the  results  have  been  of  the  highest 
importance,  and  have  contributed  in  no  little  degree  to  our 
knowledge  of  early  Christianity — its  faith — its  hopes — its 

The  Cemetery  of  Pratextatus  is  on  the  left  hand  of  the 
Via  Appia,  almost  parallel  with  the  usual  entrance  to  the  vast 
network  of  the  Catacomb  of  Callistus.  It  is,  comparatively 
speaking,  a  cemetery  of  small  dimensions,  but  of  great  anti 
quity.  It  must  have  been  arranged  quite  early  in  the  second 

1  The  story  of  the  tomb  of  S.  Cecilia  and  her  crypt  is  told  in  detail  in 
the  section  immediately  succeeding  this  general  sketch  of  the  catacombs, 
pp.  289-97. 


century  ;  not  improbably  portions  of  this  cemetery  date  from 
the  first  century.  Some  of  the  decorations  of  the  historic 
crypt  are  elaborate  and  striking,  and  evidently  belong  to 
the  best  period  of  classical  art.  As  yet  it  has  only 
partially  been  explored.  It  runs  under  private  property,  and 
the  owner  apparently  is  unwilling  to  allow  a  detailed  examina 
tion  :  this  is  disappointing,  as  owing  to  its  great  antiquity  and 
possessing  some  historic  crypts,  once  the  resting-places  of  famous 
heroes  in  the  early  Christian  combat,  probably  discoveries  of 
high  interest  would  result  from  a  prolonged  and  careful  search. 

As  early  as  A.D.  1857  De  Rossi  discovered  in  this  ceme 
tery  of  Praetextatus  some  crypts  highly  decorated,  evidently 
the  resting-places  of  certain  famous  martyrs  referred  to  in 
the  Pilgrim  Itineraries  as  sleeping  in  this  catacomb. 

There  are  many  indications  that  we  meet  with  here  which 
tell  us  that  this  is  a  very  ancient  cemetery.  Speaking  of  this 
catacomb  of  Praetextatus,  the  pilgrim  itineraries  mention 
particularly  three  of  those  small  Basilicas  in  the  immediate 
vicinity,  which  frequently  in  the  fourth  or  fifth  centuries  were 
built  directly  over  the  crypt  or  crypts  which  contained  the 
remains  of  well-known  martyrs  and  confessors  ;  this  was  for 
the  convenience  of  pilgrims  who  came  after  from  distant 
countries  to  pray  at  the  shrines  :  the  ruins  of  two  of  these 
Basilicas,  apparently  dedicated  to  SS.  Valerian,  Tiburtius, 
Maximus,  and  Zeno,  have  been  discovered  here.  Of  these 
confessors,  Valerian  and  Tiburtius  were  respectively  the 
husband  and  brother-in-law  of  S.  Cecilia.  Zeno l  was  also  a 
martyr.  Maximus  was  the  Roman  officer  who  had  charge 
of  the  execution  of  Valerian  and  Tiburtius,  and  who,  seeing 
their  constancy  under  torture,  became  a  Christian,  and  was 
in  consequence  put  to  death. 

Other  historic  crypts  have  been  ascertained  to  have  existed 
in  this  little  catacomb — namely,  those  of  SS.  Felicissimus, 
Agapetus,  and  Quirinus,  with  his  daughter  Balbina — of  whom 
Felicissimus  and  Agapitus  were  deacons  in  attendance  upon 
Pope  Sixtus.  They  suffered  martyrdom  under  Valerian,  A.D. 
258.  Quirinus  was  a  tribune  who  was  put  to  death  at  an 
earlier  period  under  the  Emperor  Hadrian. 

1  Further  details  respecting  S.  Zeno  will  be  found  below,  p.  276. 


A  yet  more  famous  confessor  than  any  of  these,  S.  Januarius, 
the  eldest  of  the  seven  martyr  sons  of  S.  Felicitas,  was  buried 
in  this  sacred  second-century  catacomb  of  Praetextatus.  The 
number  of  graffiti,  the  work  of  pilgrim  visitors  in  the  neigh 
bourhood  of  the  tomb  of  this  Januarius,  bears  witness  to  the 
great  veneration  in  which  this  martyr  was  held. 

The  ceiling  of  the  tomb,  which  has  been  identified  as  that 
of  S.  Januarius,  is  beautifully  decorated  with  paintings  of  the 
second  century — representing  the  four  seasons  :  the  spring  by 
flowers,  the  summer  by  ears  of  corn,  the  autumn  by  a  vine, 
the  winter  by  laurels  ;  birds  and  little  winged  figures  are 
artistically  mingled  in  this  very  early  decorative  work.  On  the 
wall  below  a  painting,  representing  the  Good  Shepherd  with 
a  sheep  on  His  shoulder,  has  been  almost  destroyed  by  a 
grave  excavated  in  the  fourth  century.  The  grave  held  the 
body  of  some  devout  Christian  whose  friends  were  anxious  to 
lay  their  loved  dead  as  near  as  possible  to  the  sacred  remains 
of  the  famous  martyr  S.  Januarius.  Not  a  few  of  the  more 
striking  of  the  catacomb  paintings  are  thus  unhappily  dis 
figured  by  the  mistaken  piety  of  subsequent  generations.1 

The  personality  of  Praetextatus,  after  whom  this  cemetery 
is  named,  is  unknown. 


The  ancient  Via  Latina  branches  off  from  the  Via  Appia 
near  the  Baths  of  Caracalla.  It  is  soon,  however,  lost  among 
the  vineyards,  but  reappears  and  leads  eventually  to  the 
Alban  Hills. 

The  Pilgrim  Itineraries  mention  three  cemeteries  here. 
They  give  a  certain  number  of  names  of  martyrs  buried 
in  these  catacombs — none,  however,  apparently  well  known. 
They  also  allude  to  "  many  martyrs  "  interred  in  these 

The  names  of  the  three  catacombs  in  question  are  (i) 
Apronienus  —  perhaps  the  name  of  the  original  donor ; 

1  Further  details  respecting  the  identification  of  this  once  famous  shrine 
will  be  found  below  on  pp.  301-2. 


(2)  SS.  Gordianus  and  Epimachus ;  and  (3)  S.  Tertullinus. 
These  cemeteries  have  never  been  carefully  examined,  and 
even  the  site  of  the  third  has  not  vet  been  identified. 


Leads  from  the  Porta  Maggiore,  the  ancient  Porta  Prsenes- 
tina,  to  Palestrina.  The  Itineraries  tell  us  of  two  cemeteries 
on  this  road,  that  of  S.  Castulus  and  that  of  SS.  Peter  and 
Marcellinus.  The  Catacomb  of  S.  Castulus  has  only  been 
very  partially  examined.  It  is  in  a  ruinous  condition,  and  is 
not  at  present  accessible.  S.  Castulus  suffered  martyrdom 
in  the  persecution  of  Diocletian. 

The  Catacomb  of  SS.  Peter  and  Marcellinus,  sometimes 
called  "  ad  duas  lauros,"  from  the  original  name  of  the  district, 
is  in  the  immediate  neighbourhood  of  the  famous  Torre 
Pignatara,  the  tomb  of  S.  Helena,  this  appellation  being 
derived  from  the  pignatte  or  earthen  pots  used  in  the  building. 
The  magnificent  porphyry  sarcophagus  now  in  the  Vatican 
was  removed  from  this  tomb.  SS.  Peter  and  Marcellinus, 
from  whom  this  once  celebrated  catacomb  is  named,  suffered 
in  the  persecution  of  Diocletian.  S.  Peter  was  in  orders 
as  an  exorcist.  S.  Marcellinus  was  a  priest.  Pope  Damasus, 
in  his  inscription  originally  placed  on  their  crypt,  tells  us 
he  learned  the  particulars  of  their  martyrdom  from  the 
executioner  employed  by  the  State.  This  cemetery  has 
lately  been  partially  explored.  The  bodies  of  the  two  saints 
who  gave  their  names  to  the  catacomb  were  carried  away, 
and  are  now  in  Seligenstadt,  near  Mayence.  The  saints 
termed  "  the  Ouatuor  Coronati  "  were  in  the  first  instance 
buried  here,  but  their  remains  were  subsequently  translated 
by  Pope  Leo  iv  to  the  church  on  the  Ccelian.  This  cemetery 
is  of  considerable  extent. 

The  Itineraries  enumerate  the  names  of  several  martyrs 
once  evidently  well  known.  They  also  speak  of  many  other 
martyrs  buried  here,  using  such  expressions  as  "  innumerabilis 
martyrum  multitudo  sepulta  jacent  "  — "  alii  (Martyres)  innu- 
merabiles,"  etc. 



The  Via  Tiburtina  leads  to  Tivoli.  It  quits  Rome  by  the 
Porta  S.  Lorenzo,  which  stands  on  the  site  of  the  ancient 
Porta  Tiburtina.  On  this  road  are  two  large  cemeteries, 
that  of  S.  Cyriaca  and  that  of  S.  Hippolytus.  S.  Cyriaca 
was  a  Christian  widow.  The  importance,  however,  of  this 
catacomb  is  mainly  derived  from  its  possessing  the  tomb  of 
S.  Laurence.  S.  Laurence  suffered  martyrdom  A.D.  258, 
three  days  after  the  death  of  Pope  Sixtus  n,  to  whom  he  was 
attached  as  deacon.  A  very  general  tradition  relates  that 
Laurence  suffered  on  a  gridiron.  An  extraordinary  popu 
larity  is  attached  to  his  memory.  Marucchi,  one  of  the  latest 
scholars  who  has  written  on  the  catacombs,  does  not  hesitate 
to  say  that  the  veneration  paid  to  him  was  almost  equal 
that  accorded  to  the  apostles.  There  is  scarcely  a  city 
in  Western  Christendom  which  does  not  possess  a  church 
bearing  his  honoured  name.  In  Rome  itself  there  are  six 
of  these. 

Over  the  crypt  containing  the  tomb  of  S.  Laurence, 
Constantine  the  Great  built  a  little  oratory  or  memoria,  which 
soon  became  too  small  for  the  crowds  of  pilgrims.  A  second 
church  was  erected  by  Pope  Sixtus  in,  A.D.  432,  by  the  side 
of  Constantine's  Memoria  which  was  ever  known  as  "  Basilica 
ad  Corpus."  The  second  church  was  termed  the  "  Basilica 
Major."  Three  of  the  fifth  century  Popes  of  Rome  were 
buried  in  the  "  Basilica  ad  Corpus."  In  the  thirteenth 
century  the  two  churches  were  made  into  one  by  Honorius 

III,  A.D.   I2l8. 

The  Itineraries  mention  several  well-known  martyrs  buried 
in  the  cemetery  which  was  excavated  round  the  martyr's 
sacred  tomb,  notably  SS.  Justus,  Cyriaca,  Simferosa,  etc., 
"  cum  multis  martyribus."  The  catacomb  in  comparatively 
modern  times  has  been  ruthlessly  damaged  by  the  works 
in  connection  with  a  very  large  modern  cemetery.  Only 
since  A.D.  1894  has  more  care  been  taken  in  the  preser 
vation  of  the  precious  remains  of  this  once  important 

Cemetery    of   S.    Hippolytus. — On   the   same   great  road, 


the  Via  Tiburtina  which  stretches  across  the  now  desolate 
Campagna  to  Tivoli,  on  the  northern  side  of  the  road  almost 
opposite  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Cyriaca  on  which  stands  the 
Basilica  of  S.  Laurentius  just  described,  is  the  Catacomb 
of  S.  Hippolytus.  It  is  only  comparatively  recently  that 
this  cemetery  has  been  really  explored,  and  much  still 
remains  to  be  excavated  here.  A  small  basilica  under 
ground  was  discovered,  with  the  historic  crypt  in  which 
the  once  famous  martyr  was  buried.  The  corridors  around 
have  been  sadly  ravaged  again  and  again  by  barbarian 
invaders  in  the  fifth  and  following  centuries,  and  the  whole 
catacomb  is  in  ruin,  and  has  been  only  in  part  investigated. 
It  is  evidently  of  considerable  extent.  Proximity  to  the 
tomb  of  the  great  scholar  martyr  was  evidently  a  privilege 
eagerly  sought  by  many  from  the  middle  years  of  the  third 
century  onward.  The  numbers  of  Pilgrim  "Graffiti"  or 
inscriptions  more  or  less  roughly  carved  and  painted  in  the 
neighbourhood  of  the  sanctuary,  tell  us  that  the  spot  where 
the  remains  of  Hippolytus  lay,  was  long  the  object  of  reverent 
pilgrimage  after  the  Peace  of  the  Church  all  through  the 
fourth  and  following  centuries.  The  Itineraries  mention 
many  martyrs  buried  here,  among  whom  S.  Genesius  is  per 
haps  the  best  known  ;  he  was  a  celebrated  actor  ;  once  a 
mocker  at  the  religion  of  which  eventually  he  became  the 
brave  confessor ;  he  died  for  his  faith. 

But  the  glory  of  this  now  ruined  cemetery  was  the  tomb 
of  S.  Hippolytus.  He  has  been  well  described  by  Bishop 
Light  foot  in  his  long  and  exhaustive  Memoir  (Apostolic 
Fathers,  Part  i.  vol.  ii.). 

'  The  position  and  influence  of  Hippolytus  were  unique 
among  the  Roman  Christians  of  his  age.  He  linked  together 
the  learning  and  the  traditions  of  the  East,  the  original  home 
of  Christianity,  with  the  practical  energy  of  the  West,  the 
scene  of  his  own  life  labours.  He  was  by  far  the  most  learned 
man  in  the  Western  Church.  .  .  .  Though  he  lived  till  within 
a  few  years  of  the  middle  of  the  third  century,  he  could  trace 
his  pedigree  back  by  only  three  steps,  literary  as  well  as  minis 
terial,  to  the  life  and  teaching  of  the  Saviour  Himself,  Irenaeus, 
of  whom  he  was  the  pupil,  Poly  carp,  and  S.  John.  This 


was  his  direct  ancestry.  No  wonder  if  these  facts  secured 
to  him  exceptional  honour  in  his  own  generation." 

The  position  he  occupied  in  the  Christian  world  has  been 
much  disputed.  He  is  usually  described  as  Bishop  of  Portus, 
the  harbour  of  Rome,  and  modern  scholarship  has  come  to 
the  conclusion  that  he  exercised  a  general  superintendence 
with  the  rank  of  a  bishop  over  the  various  congregations  of 
foreigners,  traders  and  others,  on  the  Italian  sea-board,  with 
Portus  as  his  headquarters. 

A  very  dignified  and  striking  statue,  alas  much  mutilated, 
has  been  found  amid  the  ruins  over  the  Cemetery  of  Hippolytus. 
On  the  back  and  sides  of  the  chair  on  which  the  figure  of 
the  scholar  bishop  is  sitting,  is  engraved  a  generally  received 
list  of  his  works.  There  is  no  doubt  as  to  the  genuineness 
of  the  statue  in  question,  which  dates  from  about  the  year 
222.  It  ranks  as  the  oldest  Christian  statue  which  has  come 
to  light ;  indeed,  it  stands  alone  as  an  example  of  very 
early  Christian  sculpture,  and  was  probably  erected  in  an 
interval  of  the  Church's  peace  in  the  reign  of  the  Emperor 
Alexander  Severus,  and  is  a  striking  proof  of  the  unique 
position  which  the  writer  and  scholar  held  in  the  Christian 

There  is  no  doubt  he  was  done  to  death — what,  however, 
was  the  peculiar  form  of  his  martyrdom  is  uncertain.  We 
know  he  was  exiled  to  Sardinia,  where  he  suffered,  and  his 
remains  were  brought  back  to  Rome  with  the  remains  of 
Pontianus,  somewhile  Bishop  of  Rome,  who  also  suffered 
martyrdom  at  the  same  time  in  Sardinia  ;  Pontianus  being 
laid  in  the  papal  crypt  in  the  Cemetery  of  Callistus,  and 
Hippolytus  in  the  catacomb  which  bears  his  name  on  the 
Via  Tiburtina,  about  the  year  237. 

Pope  Damasus,  the  great  restorer  of  the  sanctuaries  of 
Rome,  enlarged  and  beautified  the  crypt  where  the  honoured 
remains  were  deposited,  in  the  latter  years  of  the  fourth  century, 
and  a  few  years  later  Prudentius  the  Christian  poet  in  his 
collection  of  hymns  entitled  Peristephanon — the  Crowns  of 
the  Martyrs — devotes  a  long  poem  to  the  shrine  and  memory 
of  Hippolytus. 

In  the  opening  years  of  the  fourth  century,  when  Honorius, 


Theodosius'  son,  was  reigning  over  the  Western  Empire, 
it  is  evident  that  the  fame  and  reputation  of  Hippolytus, 
scholar  and  martyr,  were  among  the  popular  histories  of 
Christendom,  and  his  tomb  one  of  the  chief  objects  of 

The  lines  of  Prudentius,  written  in  the  closing  years  of 
the  fourth  century,  are  quoted  as  giving  a  picture  of  a  famous 
catacomb  as  it  appeared  to  a  scholar  and  poet  in  the  days  of 
Theodosius  and  Honorius.  They  also  give  some  idea  of  the 
estimation  and  reverential  regard  with  which  the  martyrs 
and  confessors  of  the  first  age  of  Christianity  were  held  in 
the  century  which  immediately  followed  the  Peace  of  the 
Church  : 

"  Hard  by  the  City  walls — amid  the  orchards — there  is 
a  Crypt.  .  .  .  Into  its  secret  cells  there  is  a  steep  path  with 
winding  stairs.  ...  As  you  advance,  the  darkness  as  of  night 
grows  more  dense.  ...  At  intervals,  however,  there  are  con 
trived  openings  cut  in  the  roof  above,  which  bring  the  bright 
rays  of  the  sun  into  the  crypt.  Although  the  recesses  twist 
ing  this  way  and  that  form  narrow  chambers,  with  galleries 
in  deep  gloom,  yet  some  light  finds  its  way  through  the  pierced 
vaulting  down  into  the  hollow  recesses.  .  .  .  And  thus  through 
out  the  subterranean  crypt  it  is  possible  still  to  revel  in  the 
brightness  of  the  absent  sun. 

"  To  such  secret  recesses  was  the  body  of  Hippolytus  borne, 
quite  near  to  the  spot  where  now  stands  the  altar  dedicated 
to  God. 

'  That  same  altar-slab  provides  the  sacrament,  and  is  the 
trusty  guardian  of  its  martyr's  bones,  which  it  guards  there 
in  the  waiting  for  the  Eternal  Life,  while  it  feeds  the  dwellers 
by  the  River  Tiber  with  holy  food. 

"  Marvellous  is  the  sanctity  of  the  place.  The  altar  is 
close  by  for  those  who  pray,  and  it  assists  the  hopes  of  such 
by  mercifully  giving  what  they  require.  Here,  too,  have  I 
when  sick  with  ills  of  soul  and  body,  often  knelt  in  prayer 
and  found  help.  .  .  .  Early  in  the  morning  men  come  to 
salute  (Hippolytus)  ;  all  the  youth  of  the  place  worship  here  ; 
they  come — they  go — until  the  setting  of  the  sun.  Love 


of  religion  gathers  into  one  vast  crowd  both  Latins  and 
strangers." — Translated  from  Prudentius,  "  Peri  step  hanon," 
Passion  of  S.  Hippolytus. 

The  close  proximity  of  the  Cemetery  and  Basilica  of  S. 
Laurence  (above  described)  as  years  passed  on  was  fatal  to 
the  memory  of  S.  Hippolytus.  From  very  early  times  S. 
Laurence,  the  deacon  of  Sixtus  n,  received  extraordinary 
honour.  He  suffered,  as  we  have  stated,  in  the  persecution 
of  Decius,  circa  A.D.  258,  and  occupies  the  place  of  S.  Stephen 
in  the  Church  of  the  West.  It  was  of  this  famous  and  popular 
saint  that  Augustine  wrote  :  "  Quam  non  potest  abscondi 
Roma,  tarn  non  potest  abscondi  Laurentii  corona."  In  the 
prayer  of  the  oldest  Roman  sacramentary  we  read,  "  De  beati 
solemnitate  Laurentii,  peculiaris  prae  ceteris  Roma  laetatur." 
"  No  marvel,"  writes  Bishop  Light  foot,  "  that  the  aureole 
which  encircled  the  heads  of  other  neighbouring  saints  and 
martyrs,  even  of  the  famous  Hippolytus  himself,  should  have 
faded  in  the  light  of  his  unique  splendour." 

As  years  rolled  on,  the  neighbouring  Basilica  of  S.  Laur 
ence  grew  larger  and  grander.  The  Basilica  of  S.  Hippolytus 
built  over  his  cemetery  faded  away,  comparatively  uncared 
for  ;  the  great  scholar  was  forgotten  in  the  fame  which  gathered 
round  the  neighbouring  popular  saint.  Paul  I,  A.D.  756-67, 
removed  the  sacred  relique  of  the  saint  scholar  to  the  well- 
known  City  Church  of  S.  Silvester  in  Capite. 

The  Cemetery  and  Basilica  of  Hippolytus  after  the  remains 
of  the  saint  had  been  translated  were  quickly  forgotten,  and 
the  very  site  was  in  time  confused  with  that  of  the  Cemetery 
and  stately  Church  of  S.  Laurence  on  the  other  side  of  the 
Via  Tiburtina.  It  was  only  in  1881  that  De  Rossi  discovered 
the  ancient  cemetery  and  the  ruined  subterranean  basilica 
above  briefly  described, — the  basilica  and  catacomb  visited 
by  Prudentius  in  the  last  years  of  the  fourth  century,  and  so 
vividly  painted  by  him  in  his  hymn  in  the  Peristephanon. 

Outside  Rome  there  are  traces  of  the  fame  of  the  great 
scholar,  but  not  many.  There  is  a  ruined  church  in  Portus 
bearing  his  name  ;  its  tower,  still  noticeable,  is  a  conspicuous 
landmark  in  the  desolate  Campagna.  Aries  possesses  a 


church  dedicated  to  Hippolytus.  A  strange  story  connects 
his  remains  with  the  once  famous  royal  Abbey  of  S.  Denis 
close  to  Paris.  His  body,  or  at  least  portions  of  his  body, 
are  also  traditionally  enshrined  in  churches  at  Brescia  and 
Cologne.  The  Roman  Churches  of  S.  Laurence  and  the 
"  Quatuor  Coronati "  also  claim  to  possess  reliques  of  S. 

But  these  few  scattered  and  doubtful  reliques  are  well- 
nigh  all  that  remains  of  Hippolytus,  and  while  many  of  his 
writings  are  still  with  us,  bearing  witness  to  his  industry  and 
scholarship,  his  name  and  life-work  are  virtually  forgotten 
by  men  ;  and  in  ecclesiastical  annals  only  a  dim,  blurred 
memory  of  the  career  of  one  of  the  greatest  scholars  and 
writers  of  the  first  two  Christian  centuries  lives  in  the  pages 
of  that  eventful  story. 

Of  the  two  saints  whose  basilicas  and  cemeteries  were 
so  close  together  on  that  Campagna  Road  just  outside  Rome, 
the  one,  S.  Laurence,  men  have  crowned  with  an  aureole 
of  surpassing  glory ;  the  other,  S.  Hippolytus,  whose  title 
to  honour  was  really  far  superior  to  that  of  his  companion 
in  the  tombs  of  the  Via  Tiburtina,  men  have  chosen  to 


The  Via  Nomentana  leaves  Rome  on  the  north  through 
the  modern  Porta  Pia  ;  in  ancient  times  the  Porta  Nomentana, 
and  in  the  Middle  Ages  the  Porta  S.  Agnesi.  On  this  road 
the  Itineraries  tell  us  of  three  cemeteries  :  that  of  S. 
Nicomedes,  of  S.  Agnes,  and  the  cemetery  generally  termed 
"  Coemeterium  majus.  De  Rossi  calls  this  last  the  Ostrian 
Cemetery ;  some  call  it  after  the  famous  martyred  foster- 
sister  of  Agnes,  S.  Emerentiana,  who  was  buried  there. 

(i)  Cemetery  of  S.  Nicomedes. — This  is  only  a  small  cata 
comb,  but  it  possesses  a  high  interest  on  account  of  its  age.  It 
dates  evidently  from  the  first  century.  Tradition  tells  us  that 
Nicomedes  was  a  presbyter  who  lived  in  the  days  of  Domitian. 
He  suffered  martyrdom  for  his  faith's  sake,  and  his  body  was 
thrown  into  the  Tiber.  A  disciple  of  his,  one  Justus,  recovered 


his  master's  body  and  buried  it  "  in  horto  juxta  muros."  The 
garden  in  question,  hard  by  the  city  walls,  was  the  site  of  the 
present  little  catacomb. 

The  masonry  work  here  is  of  a  very  early  date,  and  the 
various  Greek  inscriptions  on  the  loculi  also  bear  witness 
to  its  great  antiquity ;  Marucchi  alludes  to  a  reservoir 
of  water  in  the  principal  gallery,  and  believes  that  the 
presence  of  water  prevented  the  cemetery  from  being  further 

(2)  The  Cemetery  of  S.  Agnes  is  on  the  Via  Nomentana, 
about  a  mile  from  the  Porta  Pia.  S.  Agnes  has  been  from 
very  early  times  a  singularly  loved  figure  among  the 
heroines  of  the  days  of  persecution.  Jerome  well  voices  this 
popular  estimate  "  omnium  gentium  litteris  atque  linguis 
....  vita  laudata  est."  Her  story  is  well  known  ;  how  she 
refused  to  become  the  bride  of  the  Proconsul's  son,  alleging 
that  she  was  already  the  bride  of  Christ.  After  some 
terrible  experiences  she  was  condemned  to  be  burned  as  a 
Christian,  but  the  fire  was  too  tardy  or  insufficient,  so  the 
executioner  stabbed  her  in  the  throat.  The  name  "  Agnes  "  is 
simply  a  Christian  appellation  which  she  assumed  signifying 
her  purity  and  chastity.  The  name  of  her  family  is  unknown  ; 
it  is,  however,  certain  that  she  belonged  to  a  wealthy,  probably 
to  a  noble  House.  She  was  interred  in  a  cemetery,  the 
property  of  her  parents  "  in  praediolo  suo." 

Her  martyrdom  took  place  in  the  course  of  the  persecution 
of  the  Emperor  Valerian,  circa  A.D.  253-7.  Portions  of  the 
catacomb  which  bears  her  name  are  of  a  yet  older  date  than 
S.  Agnes.  Among  other  signs  of  great  antiquity  are  the  Greek 
inscriptions  on  various  loculi.  The  cemetery,  which  has  been 
explored  with  some  care,  consists  of  three  stories,  of  different 
dates.  It  was,  however,  after  the  burying  of  the  young  martyr 
that  the  catacomb  was  developed  and  assumed  considerable 
proportions,  as  many  of  the  Christian  congregation  of  Rome 
were  desirous  of  depositing  their  loved  dead  in  the  immediate 
neighbourhood  of  the  tomb  of  Agnes.  The  Emperor  Cons  tan- 
tine  in  the  fourth  century  built  the  basilica  known  as  S.  Agnes 
over  the  tomb.  There  is  an  inscription  on  a  small  marble 
tablet  at  Naples,  originally  brought  from  Rome,  which  Armellini 


considers  was  originally  on  the  loculus  containing  the  body  of 
the  saint.     The  inscription  is  as  follows  : 


The  basilica  has  been  several  times  restored,  but  preserves 
with  fair  accuracy  the  original  disposition  of  the  Church  of 

When  it  was  first  built  in  the  fourth  century,  as  we  find  in 
other  similar  instances,  considerable  destruction  and  havoc 
were  wrought  in  the  galleries  of  the  catacomb.  The  fourth- 
century  builders  often  mercilessly  cut  away  and  destroyed 
galleries,  cubicula,  loculi,  when  they  arranged  for  the  founda 
tions  and  lower  stories  of  the  church  large  or  small  which  arose 
over  the  tomb  of  the  special  saint  and  martyr.  We  would 
instance  as  conspicuous  examples  of  this  strange  disregard  of 
the  older  bury  ing-places,  the  Basilicas  of  S.  Domitilla,  of  S. 
Laurence,  of  S.  Sylvester ;  the  last  named  is  built  over  the 
Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla. 

The  body  of  S.  Agnes  was  never  translated  from  its  original 
home.  In  the  year  1605,  in  the  pontificate  of  Paul  v,  her 
remains,  together  with  those  of  her  foster-sister  the  martyr  S, 
Emerentiana,  were  placed  in  a  silver  sarcophagus  or  urn.  This 
was  seen  in  the  year  1901-2,  when  some  work  beneath  the 
altar  was  being  carried  out. 

(3)  The  Ccemeterium  majm  in  the  immediate  neighbourhood 
of  the  Catacomb  of  S.  Agnes.  De  Rossi  names  it  the  "  Ostrian  " 
Cemetery,  and  connects  it  with  the  memories  of  S.  Peter,  as 
being  the  place  where  the  apostle  used  to  baptize.  Marucchi, 
however,  in  the  light  of  recent  discoveries  in  the  Catacomb  of 
Priscilla  on  the  adjacent  Via  Salaria,  unhesitatingly  believes 
that  the  site  of  S.  Peter's  \vork  and  preaching  must  be  sought 
for  in  the  last-named  cemetery.  A  brief  resume  of  Marucchi's 
arguments,  which  are  most  weighty,  will  be  given  when  the 
Cemetery  of  Priscilla  is  described. 

The  glory  of  this  cemetery  (Coemeterium  ma  jus),  as  the 
memory  of  S.  Peter  seems  really  to  belong  to  the  Catacomb  of 
S.  Priscilla,  is  that  here  was  the  original  tomb  of  S.  Emeren 
tiana,  who  for  her  devotion  to  her  foster-sister  Agnes  suffered 


martyrdom  very  shortly  after  the  death  of  Agnes.  The  site  of 
the  tomb  has  been  ascertained,  but  the  remains  of  Emerentiana 
now  rest  in  the  silver  urn  which  contains  the  body  of  S.  Agnes 
in  her  basilica  beneath  the  altar. 

The  appellation  "  Ccemeterium  majus "  dates  certainly 
from  the  fifth  century.  One  of  the  more  striking  features  of 
this  catacomb  is  a  little  basilica  not  of  later  construction  but 
belonging  to  the  original  work.  It  is  simply  excavated  in  the 
tufa  stone,  and  is  divided  into  two  parts  by  the  passage  running 
through  the  cemetery.  It  is  a  perfect  subterranean  church, 
containing  separate  divisions  for  men  and  women.  The 
presbytery  and  the  position  of  the  altar  are  clearly  defined  ; 
the  very  chair  for  the  bishop  or  presiding  presbyter  is  in  its 
place,  as  is  the  pillar  on  which  the  sacred  oil  burned  in  front 
of  some  hallowed  sanctuary.  We  wonder  what  was  the 
special  purpose  for  which  this  little  church,  in  the  middle  of  the 
cemetery,  was  designed  ? 

The  Itineraries  mention  that  various  martyrs,  whose 
life-stories  are  generally  unknown  to  us,  were  buried  here. 



The  Via  Salaria  Nova,  like  the  Via  Nomentana,  from  which 
it  is  but  a  little  distant,  lies  on  the  north  side  of  the  city. 
Abutting  on  the  road  are  four  cemeteries  :  S.  Felicitas, 
Thrason  and  Saturninus,  Jordani,  and  the  very  important 
and  most  ancient  Catacomb  of  S.  Priscilla. 

The  story  of  S.  Felicitas,  who  with  her  seven  sons  was 
put  to  death  for  her  religion  in  the  reign  of  and  by  the  direct 
commandment  of  the  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius,  circa  A.D. 
162,  is  fairly  well  known.  The  "  Acts  "  of  the  martyrdom 
by  many  scholars  are  not  reckoned  authentic,  although  the 
document  in  question  is  allowed  to  be  of  very  high  antiquity. 

The  story  is  generally  very  sharply  criticized,  as  a  repro 
duction  of  a  story  from  the  Fourth  Book  of  Maccabees.  The 
high  estimation  in  which  the  Emperor  Marcus  universally 
now  is  held,  no  doubt  contributes  to  the  severe  criticism 


with  which  the  story  of  Felicitas  and  her  seven  sons  is  received. 
Naturally  there  is  considerable  reluctance  in  acknowledging 
in  any  way  the  truth  of  a  story  in  which  the  favourite  hero 
of  historians  and  philosophers,  the  noble  Emperor  Marcus, 
plays  so  sorry  a  part,  and  in  which  the  brave  constancy  and 
noble  endurance  of  a  group  of  those  Christians  he  so  much 
disliked  and  tried  to  despise,  is  so  conspicuously  displayed. 

But  this  is  one  of  the  many  instances,  a  witness  no  one 
can  gainsay,  of  the  catacombs  to  the  main  truth  of  a  story 
hitherto  largely  discredited.  The  tombs  of  the  heroic  mother 
and  her  brave  sons  have  been  identified.  We  recapitulate. 

In  the  Catacomb  of  S.  Felicitas  the  body  of  the  mother 
was  interred  and  subsequently  removed  to  the  basilica  built 
over  the  cemetery  in  question.  In  the  ancient  Catacomb 
of  Praetextatus,  Januarius'  (the  eldest  of  Felicitas'  sons)  tomb 
has  been  found  ;  nay  more — from  the  numerous  prayers  and 
allusions  in  the  graffiti  around  it,  it  is  evident  that  the  tomb 
in  question  was  deeply  reverenced  by  generations  of  pilgrim 
visitors.  In  the  famous  Priscilla  Catacomb  two  out  of  the  seven 
have  been  found — Felix  and  Philip.  We  know,  too,  that  in  the 
Jordani  Cemetery,  Martialis,  Vitalis,  and  Alexander  lie  buried. 
In  the  Catacomb  of  Maximus,  a  cemetery  on  the  Via  Salaria 
which  has  not  been  identified,  Silanus,  the  seventh  of  the  faithful 
band,  was  laid.  The  body  of  Silanus,  the  youngest,  apparently 
was  carried  away,  but  subsequently  restored,  and  laid  in  the 
same  catacomb  with  his  mother. 

After  the  Peace  of  the  Church  a  little  basilica  was  erected 
over  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Felicitas,  and  Pope  Damasus  wrote 
in  her  honour  one  of  his  Epistles.  At  the  end  of  the  eighth 
century  Pope  Leo  in  translated  the  remains  of  the  mother 
and  her  son  Silanus  to  the  Church  of  S.  Suzanna.1  There 
they  are  still  resting. 

After  the  translation  of  its  precious  relics,  the  cemetery 

1  The  Church  of  S.  Suzanna  has  a  striking  history.  It  was  rebuilt  by 
Maderno  for  Sixtus  v,  on  the  site  of  an  ancient  church  or  oratory  erected  by 
Pope  Caius,  A.D.  283,  in  the  house  of  his  brother,  who  suffered  martyrdom 
with  his  daughter,  Suzanna,  because  she  refused  to  break  her  vow  of  perpetual 
virginity  by  a  marriage  with  the  adopted  son  of  the  Emperor  Diocletian. 
The  bodies  of  these  two  martyrs  still  rest  beneath  the  high  altar. 


of  which  we  are  speaking,  in  common  with  so  many  of  the 
catacombs;  was  deserted  by  the  pilgrim  visitors,  and  its  very 
site  was  quickly  forgotten.  De  Rossi,  in  1858,  was  enabled 
to  point  out  its  situation,  but  it  was  not  examined  until  the 
year  1884,  when  some  workmen  digging  the  foundations  of 
a  house  came  upon  some  ancient  loculi,  with  inscriptions, 
and  a  number  of  dim  faint  pictures.  The  little  basilica  of 
the  sixth  century  thus  came  to  light,  and  the  ruins  of  what 
had  once  been  the  tomb  and  shrine  of  S.  Felicitas  in  the  cata 
comb  which  bears  her  name. 

On  the  Via  Salaria  Nova,  between  the  Cemetery  of  S. 
Felicitas  and  the  very  important  Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla, 
there  exists  what  may  be  termed  a  network  of  catacombs 
only  very  partially  explored.  The  first  is  called  after  Thrason, 
a  wealthy  Roman  citizen  who  gave  the  hospitality  of  the  tomb 
in  a  catacomb  beneath  his  gardens  to  several  martyrs  to  the 
Diocletian  persecution — notably  to  Saturninus.  This  portion 
of  the  catacombs  has  as  yet  been  only  very  little  explored  ; 
the  corridors,  etc.,  are  still  earthed  up. 

A  little  farther  on  the  same  road  is  another  cemetery, 
generally  known  too  under  the  same  name — "  Thrason." 
Marucchi,  however,  calls  it  "  Ccemeterium  Jordanorum."  It 
is  probable  that  it  was  joined  originally  to  that  of  Thrason. 
The  meaning  of  the  term  "  Jordani  "  used  in  the  old  Pilgrim 
Itineraries  is  uncertain.  This  is  one  of  the  deepest  excavated 
cemeteries.  As  many  as  four  stories  of  galleries,  one  beneath 
the  other,  have  been  found  here.  Several  "Arenaria"  or  sand 
pits  intervene  between  the  groups  of  galleries  of  this  catacomb. 
All  this  extensive  network  of  catacombs  and  arenaria  has 
only  been  partially  excavated  as  yet.  The  work  is  naturally 
costly  to  execute,  and  is  accompanied  with  some  danger. 

De  Rossi  places  in  one  of  these  "  Arenaria  "  or  sand-pits  in 
the  midst  of  this  group  of  Catacombs  of  Thrason  and  the 
Jordani  on  the  Via  Salaria,  the  scene  of  the  martyrdom  of  the 
well-known  SS.  Chrysanthus  and  his  wife  Daria,  who  bore  their 
witness  unto  death  in  the  persecution  of  the  Emperor  Numerian, 
circa  A.D.  284.  Daria  had  once  been  a  Vestal  Virgin;  she  became 
a  Christian,  and  was  the  especial  object  of  hatred  by  the 
fading  pagan  party. 


S.  Gregory  of  Tours,  in  his  De  Gloria  Martyrum  relates 
how  after  the  Peace  of  the  Church,  when  the  tombs  of  these 
two  famous  martyrs  were  searched  for  and  discovered,  in 
the  historic  crypt  of  their  tomb  were  found  the  sad  remains 
of  a  large  group  of  Christians — men,  women,  and  even  children. 
Some  time  after  the  martyrdom  of  SS.  Chrysanthus  and  Daria, 
a  number  of  Christians  secretly  came  to  the  crypt  to  pray 
at  the  martyrs'  tomb.  Information  was  given,  and  the  Imperial 
authority  with  all  haste  directed  that  the  entrance  should 
be  walled  up.  This  was  speedily  done,  and  the  group  of  Chris 
tian  worshippers  were  thus  buried  alive.  The  bodies  were 
found,  as  Gregory  of  Tours  relates,  and  with  them  the  euchar- 
istic  vessels  of  silver  they  had  brought  for  the  celebration  of 
the  Holy  Communion. 

Pope  Damasus,  who  made  this  singular  discovery  in  the 
latter  years  of  the  fourth  century — about  a  century  after 
this  wholesale  martyrdom — would  not  allow  the  group  or 
the  sacred  tomb  to  be  touched  ;  but  simply  in  the  piled-up 
stones  caused  a  little  window  to  be  made,  that  pilgrims 
might  look  on  and  venerate  this  strange  sad  ^roup  of 

De  Rossi  ever  hoped  to  come  upon  this  little  window  in 
question,  and  after  fifteen  centuries  again  to  gaze  with  all 
reverence  on  this  "miniature  Christian  Pompeii!" 

S.  Gregory  in  the  sixth  century  tells  us  the  little  window 
looking  on  this  moving  scene  was  shown  to  pilgrims  of  his 
day  and  time. 

De  Rossi's  hope — nay  more,  his  expectation — of  finding 
the  window  has  not  yet  been  gratified,  the  ruinous  state  of 
the  catacomb  preventing  any  exhaustive  search. 

There  are  many  martyrs'  tombs  and  historic  crypts,  we 
learn  from  the  Pilgrim  Itineraries,  still  to  be  uncovered  in  this 
group  of  cemeteries. 

The  Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla. — Recent  researches  have 
added  much  to  our  previous  knowledge  of  this  catacomb, 
and  have  confirmed  De  Rossi's  judgment  of  its  great  antiquity 
and  importance.  Indeed,  it  ranks  with  the  great  network 
of  the  Callistus  and  Domitilla  Cemeteries  on  the  Appian  and 
Ardeatina  Roads — not  in  extent  perhaps,  but  certainly  in 


antiquity  and  interest.     It  lies  along  the  Salarian  Way  above 
described  as  on  the  north  of  the  city. 

De  Rossi's  words  are  memorable :  "  The  Cemetery  of 
Priscilla  is  a  centre  where  the  various  memories  connected 
with  the  Churches  of  Pudens  and  Priscilla  meet  like  lines 
drawn  from  different  places." 

Now  three  of  the  most  ancient  churches  of  Rome- 
churches  whose  foundation  stories  were  laid  in  apostolic 
times — are  referred  to  by  the  great  scholar  and  archaeologist 
here.  They  are  S.  Pudentiana  on  the  Viminal  Hill,  S.  Pras- 
sedis  on  the  Esquiline,  and  S.  Priscilla  (S.  Prisca)  on  the 
Aventine.  Of  these  S.  Priscilla  is  no  doubt  the  lineal  descend 
ant  of  the  church  that  was  in  the  house  of  Aquila  and  Priscilla, 
the  friends  of  Paul.  We  trace  it  back  to  the  fifth  century. 
It  is  evident  that  before  the  fourth  century  the  little  church 
in  the  house  of  the  tent-makers  had  become  the  public  church 
of  S.  Priscilla.  Its  founders,  the  well-known  Aquila  and 
Priscilla,  were  buried  in  the  Cemetery  of  Priscilla. 

Pope  Leo  iv  in  the  ninth  century  specially  refers  to  their 
tombs  in  the  Priscilla  Cemetery. 

The  second  of  the  three  ancient  churches,  S.  Prassedis, 
in  common  with  S.  Pudentiana,  was  on  the  vast  estate  which 
the  family  of  Pudens  possessed  at  the  foot  of  the  Esquiline. 
There  is,  however,  no  tradition  extant  as  to  when  it  was  first 
founded.  It  is  mentioned  in  an  inscription  of  the  fifth  century 
in  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Hippolytus,  and  again  in  the  year  490 
in  the  Acts  of  the  Council  under  the  presidency  of  Pope 
Symmachus.  It  has  been  restored  several  times,  and  in  the 
early  Middle  Ages  is  famous  as  the  first  place  where  Pope 
Paschal  I  deposited  the  remains  of  the  2400  martyrs  which 
were  translated  for  security's  sake  from  the  various  catacombs. 

In  our  day  and  time  this  most  ancient  church  is  best 
known  for  the  little  chapel,  called  from  its  unusual  and 
mysterious  splendour  "  Orto  del  Paradise."  It  is  commonly 
called  the  Chapel  of  S.  Zeno,  to  whom  it  was  originally  dedi 
cated.  S.  Zeno  suffered  in  the  reign  of  Claudius  (Gothicus), 
A.D.  268-70.  He  is  buried  in  a  crypt  in  the  Cemetery  of 
Praetextatus.  S.  Zeno  is  called  in  one  of  the  Itineraries 
"  The  Brother  of  the  S.  Valentinus  of  the  Catacomb  on  the 


Flaminian  Way."  This  famous  chapel  contains  one  of  the 
great  relics  of  Rome,  the  column  to  which  it  is  said  our  Saviour 
in  His  Passion  was  bound — it  is  of  the  rarest  blood  jasper. 
In  S.  Prassedis  are  two  ancient  sarcophagi  containing  the 
remains  of  the  two  sainted  sisters  SS.  Prassedis  and  Pudentiana, 
brought  from  their  original  tombs  in  the  Cemetery  of  S. 
Priscilla  at  the  time  of  the  great  translation  of  the  remains 
of  the  saints  by  Paschal  i.  In  the  centre  of  the  nave  the  well 
is  still  shown  where  S.  Prassedis  probably  buried  the  remains 
of  martyrs  ;  a  similar  well  exists  in  the  sister  church  of 
S.  Pudentiana. 

The  first  of  the  three  churches,  S.  Pudentiana,  is  by  far  the 
most  interesting  of  the  three.  It  is  generally  assumed  to  be 
the  most  ancient  church  in  Rome  ;  originally — so  says  the 
tradition — it  was  the  church  in  the  house  of  a  senator  named 
Pudens,  who  received  and  gave  hospitality  to  S.  Peter.  It 
is  mentioned  in  inscriptions  of  the  fourth  century.  Siricius, 
who  followed  Damasus  in  the  Roman  Episcopate,  A.D.  384- 
398,  restored  it.  This  would  imply  that  it  had  existed  long 
before  the  age  of  the  Peace  of  the  Church.  It  has  alas  !  under 
gone  many  restorations  since  ;  but  it  still  preserves  a  magni 
ficent  and  stately  mosaic  in  the  apse,  of  the  date  of  Siricius. 
This  is  the  oldest  piece  of  mosaic  work  in  a  Roman  church. 
(S.  Constantia  with  its  beautiful  mosaic  roof,  which  is  slightly 
older,  was  not  in  the  first  instance  a  church,  but  simply  a 
mausoleum.)  The  figures  of  the  two  sisters  SS.  Prassedis 
and  Pudentiana  holding  crowns,  appear  standing  behind  the 
Lord  and  His  apostles.  Recent  investigations  have  brought 
other  indications  of  its  great  antiquity  to  light,  and  Marucchi 
considers  that  yet  more  may  be  discovered. 

A  close  connection  evidently  exists  between  these  most 
ancient  churches  and  the  Cemetery  of  Priscilla  we  are  about 
to  speak  of. 

A  very  ancient  document — "  the  Acts  of  Pastor  and 
Timotheus  " — which  Baronius,  Cardinal  Wiseman,  and  others 
deem  authentic,  gives  at  some  length  the  story  of  the  founda 
tion  of  this  very  early  Church  of  S.  Pudentiana  ;  the  majority 
of  scholars,  however,  while  acknowledging  their  great  anti 
quity,  hesitate  to  receive  these  "  Acts  "  as  belonging  to  the 


very  early  period  at  which  they  purport  to  be  written.  They 
probably,  however,  embody  the  substance  of  the  generally 
received  tradition.  This  ancient  document  consists  of  two 
letters  ;  the  first  from  one  Pastor,  a  priest,  addressed  to 
Timotheus  ;  the  second  the  answer  of  Timotheus.  To  these 
is  added  an  appendix  by  Pastor,  which  takes  up  and  com 
pletes  the  story.  We  give  a  portion  of  this  : 

"  Pudens  went  to  his  Saviour  leaving  his  daughters,  strength 
ened  with  chastity,  and  learned  in  all  the  divine  law.  These 
sold  their  goods,  and  distributed  the  produce  to  the  poor 
and  persevered  strictly  in  the  love  of  Christ.  .  .  .  They  desired 
to  have  a  baptistery  in  their  house,  to  which  the  blessed  Pius 
(the  Bishop  of  Rome,  A.D.  142-57)  not  only  consented  but  with 
his  own  hand  drew  the  plan  of  the  fountain.  ...  By  the 
advice  of  the  blessed  Pius,  the  enfranchisement  of  the  Christian 
slaves  was  declared  with  all  the  ancient  usages  in  the  oratory 
founded  by  Pudens  ;  there  at  the  festival  of  Easter  96  were 
baptized,  so  that  henceforth  assemblies  were  constantly  held 
in  the  said  oratory,  which  night  and  day  resounded  with 
hymns  of  praise.  Many  pagans  gladly  came  thither  to  find 
the  faith  and  receive  baptism.  .  .  .  The  blessed  Bishop 
Pius  himself  often  visited  it  with  joy,  and  offered  the  sacrifice 
for  us  to  the  Saviour. 

"  Then  Pudentiana  went  to  God.  Her  sister  (Prassedis) 
and  I  (Pastor)  wrapped  her  in  perfumes,  and  kept  her  concealed 
in  the  oratory.  Then  after  28  days  we  carried  her  to  the 
Cemetery  of  Priscilla  and  laid  her  near  her  father  Pudens." 

(Then  follows  an  account  of  the  death  of  Novatus,  who, 
according  to  the  Note  in  the  Liber  Pontificalis  (2nd 
Recension)  in  the  account  of  Pope  Pius  I,  was  apparently 
a  brother  of  the  two  sisters  ;  he  bequeathed  his  goods  to 
Prassedis,  who  proceeded  to  erect  a  church  in  his  Baths.) 

"  At  the  end  of  two  years  a  great  persecution  was  declared 
against  the  Christians,  and  many  of  them  received  the  crown 
of  martyrdom.  Prassedis  concealed  a  great  number  of  them 
in  her  oratory.  .  .  .  The  Emperor  Antoninus  heard  of  these 
meetings  in  the  oratory  of  Prassedis,  and  many  Christians 
were  taken.  .  .  .  The  blessed  Prassedis  collected  their  bodies 
by  night  and  buried  them  in  the  Cemetery  of  Priscilla.  .  .  . 


Then  the  Virgin  of  the  Saviour,  worn  out  with  sorrow,  only 
asked  for  death.  Her  tears  and  her  prayers  reached  to  heaven, 
and  54  days  after  her  brethren  had  suffered,  she  passed  to 
God.  And  I,  Pastor,  the  priest,  have  buried  her  body  near 
that  of  her  father  Pudens."  l 

To  sum  up  the  general  tradition,  which  the  recent  investi 
gations  in  the  Church  of  Pudentiana  and  in  the  Catacomb  of 
S.  Priscilla  largely  bear  out : 

A  disciple  of  the  Apostles  Peter  and  Paul,  one  Pudens, 
a  Roman  of  senatorial  rank  and  rich,  received  S.  Peter  in 
his  house,  which  became  a  meeting-place  for  Christian  folk 
at  Rome  in  very  early  days.  This  subsequently  became 
the  Church  of  S.  Pudentiana.  Pudens  had  two  daughters, 
Pudentiana  and  Prassedis.  Later  the  Baths  of  Novatus 
(who  was  brother  of  the  two  sisters),  which  apparently  formed 
part  of  the  house  or  palace  of  Pudens,  became  a  recognized 
meeting-place  for  Christians,  and  this  subsequently  was  termed 
the  Church  of  S.  Pudentiana. 

The  Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla  on  the  Via  Salaria  also  be 
longed  to  this  Christian  family,  and  was  no  doubt  constructed 
on  the  property  of  the  same  Pudens.  Pudens  and  his  two 
daughters  were  buried  in  this  cemetery.  One  portion  of 
this  catacomb  was  used  as  the  burying-place  of  the  illustrious 
family  of  the  Acilii  Glabriones  which  evidently  numbered 
many  Christian  members. 

De  Rossi  believes  that  Pudens,  the  father  of  the  two  sisters 
Pudentiana  and  Prassedis,  belonged  to  this  illustrious  house 
of  the  Acilii  Glabriones. 

There  was  also  evidently  a  near  connection  between  the 
Aquila  and  Priscilla  so  closely  associated  with  S.  Paul  and 
the  family  of  Pudens.  It  has  been  suggested  with  great 

1  In  two  of  the  MSS.  of  the  second  edition  or  Recension  of  the  Liber 
Pontificalis  under  the  account  of  Pope  Pins  i  (A.D.  142-57),  we  find  the  follow 
ing  note,  which  contains  much  of  the  substance  of  the  above  extract  from  the 
"  Acts  "  of  SS.  Pudentianre  et  Praxedis  above  quoted  :  "  Hie  (Pius)  ex 
rogatu  beate  Praxedis  dedicavit  ecclesiam  thermas  Novati,  in  vico  Patricii, 
in  honore  sororis  sue  sanetae  Potentianae  (Pudentianae),  ubi  et  multa  dona 
obtulit  ;  ubi  sepius  sacrificium  Domino  offerens  ministrabat.  Immo  et 
fontem  baptismi  construi  fecit,  manus  suas  benedixit  et  consecravit,  et  multos 
venientes  ad  fidem  baptizavit  in  nomine  Trinitatis." 


probability  that  Aquila  was  a  frcedman  or  client  of  Pudens, 
and  that  Aquila  and  his  wife  Priscilla  were  intimately  con 
nected  with  the  noble  family  we  have  been  speaking  of,  Pris 
cilla,  S.  Paul's  friend,  being  named  after  the  older  Priscilla. 
All  these,  wre  know,  were  buried  in  the  Cemetery  of  Priscilla. 
The  Priscilla  who  has  given  her  name  to  the  catacomb  was 
the  mother  of  Pudens. 

The  foregoing  little  sketch,  showing  the  connection  of 
this  Cemetery  of  Priscilla  with  these  most  ancient  churches, 
is  a  necessary  introduction  to  the  description  of  the  catacomb 
in  question,  which  we  have  not  hesitated  to  style  one  of  the 
most  important  of  the  Roman  cemeteries.  It  is,  we  think, 
one  of  the  oldest,  ranking  here  with  the  Cemeteries  of  Domitilla 
and  the  Lucina  area  of  S.  Callistus.  Each  of  these  three 
belongs  probably  to  the  first  century  of  the  Christian  era. 

From  the  references  in  the  Liberian  Calendar,  compiled 
A.D.  354,  under  the  head  of  "  Depositiones  Martyrum  "  ;  in 
the  Liber  Pontificalis,  and  in  the  Pilgrim  Itineraries,  we  learn 
that  in  the  Cemetery  of  Priscilla  were  interred  the  remains 
of  many  martyrs,  confessors,  and  saints.  There  for  several 
centuries  rested  the  bodies  of  Aquila  and  Priscilla  ;  Pudens 
and  his  sainted  daughters  Prassedis  and  Pudentiana  ;  two 
of  the  martyred  sons  of  S.  Felicitas,  Felix  and  Philip,  who  bore 
their  witness  in  the  days  of  the  Emperor  Marcus,  and  the 
Martyr  Crescentius.  Here  too  were  buried  seven  of  the 
Bishops  of  Rome,  two  of  whom  wear  the  martyr's  crown— 
Marcellinus  and  Marcellus,  who  suffered  in  the  Diocletian 
persecution.  These  are  the  most  notable,  but  many  other 
martyrs  were  interred  in  this  most  ancient  God's  acre. 

Some  of  these  hallowed  remains,  after  the  Peace  of  the 
Church  in  the  fourth  century,  were  brought  up  from  the 
crypts  of  the  great  catacomb  and  laid  in  the  basilica  sub 
sequently  known  as  S.  Sylvester.1 

1  See  on  p.  272,  where  details  are  given  of  the  translation  of  these  con 
fessors  and  of  certain  of  the  bishops  of  Rome  originally  interred  in  the 
Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla,  into  the  basilica  of  S.  Sylvester,  erected  over  the 
Priscilla  Catacomb  by  Pope  Sylvester,  and  named  after  both.  The  basilica 
in  question  was  discovered  by  De  Rossi  in  A.D.  1889,  in  the  course  of  his 
investigations  at  S.  Priscilla. 

IX   THK  C.VI.U  OMi;  OF  S.   1>K  ISCI  I.I.A  (II   OR   III   CKXTURY).     THK   FIGURK 





In  the  ninth  century,  when  the  great  translation  of  the 
precious  remains  of  the  saints  and  martyrs  from  their  old 
resting-places  in  the  catacombs  outside  Rome  to  securer 
resting-places  within  the  city,  took  place,  the  Cemetery  of 
Priscilla  in  common  with  the  other  God's  acres  we  term  cata 
combs  was  despoiled  of  many  of  its  sacred  deposits.  In 
common  too  with  the  other  catacombs,  S.  Priscilla  at  once 
ceased  to  be  an  object  of  reverent  pilgrimage,  and  was  quickly 
forgotten,  and  remained  forgotten  for  many  hundred  years. 
It  has  only  been  explored  in  the  last  thirty  or  forty  years,  and 
not  yet  by  any  means  exhaustively.  It  was  only  in  A.D.  1887 
that  the  crypt  of  the  noble  family  of  the  Acilii  Glabriones  was 

Quite  recent  investigation  and  discoveries  have  now  satisfied 
Marucchi,  the  last  explorer  and  student  of  the  catacombs,  long 
the  assistant  and  disciple  of  De  Rossi,  that  the  Cemetery  of 
Priscilla  must  be  identified  as  the  locality  of  the  preaching  and 
teaching  of  S.  Peter — so  often  alluded  to  as  the  "  Sedes  ubi 
prius  sedit  sanctus  Petrus  " — that  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla 
was  the  "C&meterium  ad  Nymphas  bcati  Petri  ubi  baptizavemt." 
Marucchi  has  with  infinite  pains  and  scholarship  proved  his 
point,  and  has  shown  to  a  wondering  group  of  interested 
scholars  the  very  pools  still  filled  with  water  in  the  dark  crypts 
of  S.  Priscilla  in  which  the  great  apostle  probably  baptized  the 
first  converts  to  the  religion  of  his  Master,  for  whom  in  the  end 
he  witnessed  his  noble  confession  on  the  Vatican  Hill  in  the  reign 
of  the  Emperor  Nero. 

The  Cemetery  of  Priscilla,  as  at  present  explored,  consists 
roughly  of  two  vast  galleries  ;  many  of  its  crypts  and  corridors 
dating  from  the  first  and  second  centuries.  Their  age  is 
accurately  determined,  among  other  well-known  signs,  by  the 
character  of  the  decorative  work  and  by  the  nature  and  phrase 
ology  of  the  inscriptions  ;  the  existence  of  the  many  Greek 
epitaphs  is  one  other  sure  proof  of  the  very  early  date  of  the 

From  the  notices  in  the  Pilgrim  Itineraries,  notwithstanding 
their  present  often  ruined  and  desolate  condition,  a  good  many 
of  the  original  tombs  of  the  more  famous  confessors  and 
saints  can  be  fairly  identified.  We  will  indicate  a  few  of  the 


more  remarkable  features  of  this  important  and  venerable 

On  the  first  story,  the  original  tomb  of  Priscilla,  according 
to  the  ancient  Itineraries,  is  in  a  crypt  close  to  an  old  entrance 
staircase.  Close  to  the  crypt  is  a  large  chamber  of  the  second 
century,  evidently  used  for  public  worship.  Small  chambers  or 
chapels  lead  out  of  this  large  crypt,  one  of  these  being  the 
famous  Greek  Chapel,  so  called  in  later  times  from  some  Greek 
inscriptions  on  the  walls.  The  paintings  on  the  walls  are 
important  and  highly  interesting.  This  ancient  chapel  was  also 
used  for  worship.  In  the  neighbourhood  of  this  portion  of  the 
cemetery  is  a  large  crypt  which  from  various  sure  signs,  such  as 
the  evident  desire  on  the  part  of  many  to  make  it  their  last 
home  ;  from  the  pillars  on  which  once  were  placed  the  lamps 
which  used  ever  to  burn  close  to  specially  revered  sanctuaries  ; 
from  the  many  means  of  access  for  pilgrims  of  the  third  and 
fourth  centuries, — was  clearly  the  last  resting-place  of  several 
of  the  more  famous  saints  of  the  Catacomb  of  S.  Priscilla.  No 
inscription  or  graffiti  of  pilgrims  have  yet  been  deciphered 
to  tell  us  who  lay  here.  It  has  been  suggested  that  Prassedis, 
Pudentiana,  and  other  well-known  saints  were  probably 
interred  in  or  near  this  place.  Marucchi  calls  attention  to 
the  great  number  of  loculi  in  this  cemetery,  still  untouched — 
not  rifled  of  their  precious  contents.  The  inscriptions  on  many 
of  these  loculi  for  the  most  part  are  very  short  and  simple, 
containing  little  besides  the  name  of  the  dead, -with  just 
a  brief  beautiful  reference  to  the  sure  hope  of  the  dead  in 

In  this  first  or  uppermost  gallery  of  the  catacomb  on  which 
we  are  dwelling,  was  discovered  quite  lately  a  very  large  crypt 
surrounded  with  corridors,  sadly  ruined,  but  with  the  remains 
of  elaborate  decoration  still  visible  and  with  fragments  of 
marble  lying  about,  with  pieces  of  sarcophagi  and  portions 
of  inscriptions  carefully  carved,  some  in  Greek,  beautifully 
wrought.  This  area,  which  is  quite  distinct  from  the  great 
cemetery  in  the  midst  of  which  it  lies,  once  contained  the 
remains  of  the  Christian  members  of  the  noble  Roman  house  of 
the  Acilii  Glabriones.  From  the  inscriptions  which  have  been 
found  and  deciphered,  this  bury  ing-place  of  a  famous  family 


dates  from  the  first  century,  and  the  interments  from  the  first 
and  following  centuries. 

These  Acilii  Glabriones  whose  names  occur  and  recur  in  the 
broken  inscriptions  were  members  of  a  distinguished  family, 
holding  a  very  high  position  in  the  aristocracy  of  Rome  under 
the  early  Emperors.  We  learn  a  good  deal  about  a  head  of  this 
illustrious  house,  Acilius  Glabrio,  from  the  historians  Suetonius 
and  Dion  Cassius. 

In  the  year  of  grace  91,  Acilius  Glabrio  was  consul,  and 
excited  the  jealousy  of  the  Emperor  Domitian,  who  condemned 
him  to  fight  with  wild  beasts  in  the  gardens  of  one  of  the 
Imperial  villas.  From  this  deadly  combat  he  came  out 
victorious,  but  the  hatred  of  the  Emperor  was  not  satisfied, 
and  he  exiled  the  powerful  patrician,  and  eventually  put  him 
to  death. 

The  accusation  against  Acilius  Glabrio  seems  to  have  been 
that  he  was  among  the  "  devisers  of  new  things  "  ("  molitores 
novarum  rerum").  It  was  a  vague  and  mysterious  charge 
made  against  various  persons  of  high  degree  in  the  reign  of 
Domitian.  The  accusation  was  connected  with  the  practice 
of  some  strange  foreign  superstition  unknown  to  the  State 
religion.  This  crime  is  now  generally  understood  to  have 
been  the  practice  of  Christianity,  and  Acilius  Glabrio,  Clemens 
the  near  kinsman  of  the  Emperor,  and  many  others  alluded 
to  by  Suetonius  who  were  arraigned  under  this  charge  and 
put  to  death,  were  evidently  Christians.  This  conjecture, 
since  the  recent  discovery  of  the  great  crypt  of  the  Acilii 
Glabriones  in  the  Priscilla  Cemetery  belonging  to  this  noble 
house,  has  become  a  certainty,  for  the  Christianity  of  those 
buried  there  has  been  absolutely  proved  from  words  and 
sacred  Christian  signs  carved  upon  the  broken  slabs  which 
once  formed  part  of  the  sarcophagi  and  loculi  bearing  the 
family  name. 

Thus,  according  to  Marucchi,  to  Allard  the  well-known 
and  scholarly  historian  of  the  Persecutions,  and  to  De  Rossi, 
Acilius  Glabrio,  the  great  patrician,  the  consul  of  the  first 
century,  the  contemporary  of  the  Apostles  Peter  and  Paul 
and  no  doubt  their  friend  and  convert,  was  one  of  that  aristo 
cratic  group  in  Rome  which  accepted  the  faith  of  Jesus,  a 


group  of  which  so  little  is  known,  and  whose  very  existence 
hitherto  has  been  generally  questioned  ;  and  these,  recog 
nizing  the  brotherhood  of  slaves  and  freedmen  and  the  poorest 
and  saddest  of  the  dwellers  of  the  great  city,  not  only  helped 
them  in  their  life,  and  associated  them  in  all  their  dearest  and 
most  certain  hopes,  but  gave  them  the  "  hospitality  of  the 
tomb  "  —constructing  round  the  stately  family  crypt  the 
corridors  and  funereal  chambers  where  these  poor  and  insigni 
ficant  members  of  the  Christian  congregation  might  rest. 
The  Priscilla  Cemetery,  dating  as  it  does  from  the  days  of 
the  apostle,  is  a  great  example  of  this  loving  Christian 

Now  general  tradition  ascribes  the  foundation  of  this  vast 
and  ancient  catacomb  to  Pudens,  the  wealthy  senator  ;  to 
his  mother  Priscilla,  of  whom  beyond  her  name  we  know 
nothing  ;  to  her  sainted  daughters  Prassedis  and  Pudentiana. 
The  question  then  arises — Was  this  Pudens  a  member  of  the 
great  house  of  the  Acilii  Glabriones  ?  The  leading  Italian 
scholars  in  the  lore  of  the  catacombs  think  he  certainly  was. 
De  Rossi  even  suspects  that  Pudens  was  the  martyr  consul 
himself.  With  our  present  knowledge  this  supposition  cannot 
be  decisively  maintained.  It  is,  however,  an  interesting  hypo 

The  Basilica  of  S.  Sylvester,  of  which  we  shall  speak  pre 
sently,  which  was  erected  shortly  after  the  Peace  of  the  Church 
in  the  fourth  century,  was  directly  over  the  crypt  of  the 
Acilii  Glabriones. 

A  very  remarkable  feature  in  the  Catacomb  of  S.  Priscilla 
are  the  reservoirs  of  water,  which  evidently  served  in  very 
early  days  as  baptisteries.  The  most  considerable  of  these 
reservoirs  or  tanks  is  on  the  upper  story  of  the  cemetery,  and 
is  communicated  with  by  a  broad  staircase  of  over  twenty-five 
steps,  which  come  out  behind  what  was  once  the  apsidal  end  of 
the  Basilica  of  S.  Sylvester.  Marucchi  describes  it  as  "  une 
vaste  piscine  encore  pleine  d'eau,  desservie  par  un  petit  canal." 
This  great  baptistery  became,  from  the  fourth  century  onward, 
a  spot  of  intense  interest  to  the  many  pilgrims  who  visited 
the  catacomb  sanctuaries. 

Another  large  reservoir  of  water  has  been  found  on  the 


second  story  of  this  vast  catacomb ;  other  and  smaller 
tanks  have  also  been  found. 

Marucchi  believes  that  this  cemetery  is  the  one  alluded 
to  in  the  many  traditions,  including  the  notices  in  the  Pilgrim 
Itineraries,  as  the  special  scene  of  S.  Peter's  labours  and 
preaching,  teaching  and  baptizing,  as  the  "  ccemeterium 
beati  Petri  ubi  baptizaverat,"  as  the  "  sedes  ubi  prius  sedit 
sanctus  Petrus." 

The  investigation  which  has  led  to  recent  discoveries  in 
this  cemetery  had  not  been  completed  when  De  Rossi  identi 
fied  the  Coemeterium  Ostrianum  (of  which  we  spoke  above) 
as  the  scene  of  S.  Peter's  work.  It  is  these  latest  "  finds  " 
that  have  induced  Marucchi  to  fix  the  Priscilla  Cemetery 
as  the  place  where  the  great  apostle  laboured  in  those  early 
years  of  the  history  of  Roman  Christianity. 

Beneath  the  first  vast  gallery  of  this  catacomb  with  its  many 
memories  of  saints  and  martyrs,  including  the  famous  crypt 
of  the  "  Acilii  Glabriones "  house,  lies  another  and  very 
ancient  area  of  sepulchral  galleries. 

This  area  was  communicated  with  by  several  staircases, 
some  of  which  are  now  completely  closed.  This  vast  sepul 
chral  area  has  been  as  yet  only  partially  explored.  It  is 
described  roughly  as  consisting  of  a  long  gallery,  out  of 
which  lead  more  than  twenty  other  galleries,  many  of  which 
as  yet  are  only  imperfectly  investigated. 

Marucchi,  who  has  devoted  a  long  and  important  section 
of  his  great  work  to  the  Priscilla  Catacomb,  writes  of  this 
second  story  of  the  cemetery  as  the  most  extensive  and  care 
fully  planned  of  all  the  cemeteries  of  subterranean  Rome 
that  have  been  yet  examined. 

His  words  here  are  remarkable,  and  must  be  quoted  :  "  On 
peut  dire  sans  exaggeration,  que  c'est  la  region  cemeteriale 
la  plus  vaste  et  la  plus  reguliere  de  toute  la  Rome  souterraine." 

The  masonry  used  in  its  construction  ;  its  many  inscrip 
tions  on  the  loculi,  carved  in  marble,  or  painted  in  red  on 
tiles, — all  bear  witness  of  its  hoar  antiquity  ;  much  of  it 
dates  certainly  from  the  second  century.  It  contains,  as  we 
have  remarked  already,  a  reservoir  or  tank  of  water — of 
course  a  baptistery — deep  and  of  considerable  size. 


This  singular  feature,  when  taken  in  conjunction  with  the 
great  tank  or  reservoir  of  the  first  story  and  the  several  smaller 
tanks  or  reservoirs  discovered  in  the  various  corridors  and 
sepulchral  chambers — peculiarities  and  features  possessed 
by  no  other  catacomb — amply  justifies  the  ancient  appella 
tion  "  ad  Nymphas,"  which  no  doubt  exclusively  belongs 
to  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla,  and  which  in  several  parts 
seems  to  preserve  a  memory  of  the  baptisms  of  S.  Peter. 

Over  most  of  the  catacombs — certainly  over  the  more 
important — shortly  after  the  Peace  of  the  Church,  basilicas 
or  churches  of  various  dimensions  were  erected  for  the  accom 
modation  of  pilgrims  and  members  of  the  Roman  congrega 
tions  who  desired  to  visit  and  to  venerate  the  sanctuaries  of 
the  subterranean  cemeteries  which  soon  became  famous  and 
objects  of  reverence  in  the  Christian  world.  The  basilica 
subsequently  known  as  S.  Sylvester,  which  was  built  over 
the  Cemetery  of  Priscilla,  no  doubt  before  the  year  336,  has 
perhaps  obtained  a  greater  notoriety  than  any  other  of  these 
fourth-century  cemetery  churches. 

Into  this  basilica,  apparently  shortly  after  its  erection, 
were  translated  many  of  the  bodies  of  martyrs,  whose  remains 
had  been  in  the  first  instance  deposited  in  the  crypts  of  S. 
Priscilla  beneath.  The  Pilgrim  Itineraries  dwell  upon  this, 
and  especially  mention  how  under  the  high  altar  of  S.  Syl 
vester  two  of  the  martyred  sons  of  S.  Felicitas  rested — Felix 
and  Philip. 

Into  S.  Sylvester,  too,  were  brought  the  remains  of  the  two 
martyr  Popes,  Marcellus  and  Marcellinus.  There  also  Pope 
Sylvester,  the  builder  of  the  basilica  after  whom  it  has  been 
named,  was  interred  ;  and  at  his  feet  Pope  Siricius,  the  suc 
cessor  of  Pope  Damasus.  Three  more  of  the  occupants  of  the 
papal  dignity  have  been  interred  in  this  honoured  sanctuary, 
namely,  Liberius,  A.D.  353-5  ;  Celestinus,  A.D.  422-32  ;  and 
at  a  somewhat  later  date  Pope  Vigilius,  A.D.  538-55  ;  in  all 
the  remains  of  seven  of  the  Bishops  of  Rome  rested  in  S. 

Indeed,  this  little  basilica  ranks  as  the  third  of  the  sacred 
places  of  interment  of  the  Bishops  of  Rome.  The  first  is  on 
the  Vatican  Hill — in  the  immediate  neighbourhood  of  the 


grave  of  S.  Peter — where  ten  or  eleven  of  the  first  occupants 
of  the  See  of  Rome  lie.  The  second  is  the  famous  so-called 
Papal  Crypt  in  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Callistus  on  the  Appian 
Way.  The  third  is  the  Basilica  of  S.  Sylvester  over  the 
Cemetery  of  Priscilla.  The  fourth  is  once  more  on  the  Vatican 
Hill,  near  the  grave  of  S.  Peter,  in  the  stately  church  erected 
by  the  Emperor  Constantine  on  the  site  of  the  little  Memoria 
chapel  of  Linus. 

It  has  been  well  suggested  that  in  each  instance  the  selection 
of  the  spot  for  the  formal  creation  of  an  official  papal  burying- 
place  was  influenced  by  some  direct  memory  of  S.  Peter 
which  was  attached  to  the  spot  in  question.  In  the  case  of 
the  first  and  fourth  this  is  obvious. 

In  the  case  of  the  first  was  the  little  Memoria  over  the 
sacred  tomb.  In  the  case  of  the  fourth — the  place  selected 
was  on  the  Vatican  Hill — under  the  shadow  of  the  house  of 
God  erected  by  Constantine  over  the  first  Memoria. 

Round  the  grave  of  S.  Peter  it  was  natural  and  fitting  that 
the  first  Bishops  of  Rome  should  lie.  When  the  space  was 
entirely  filled  up,  as  was  the  case  at  the  close  of  the  second 
century,  and  a  fresh  official  burying-place  for  the  Bishops 
had  to  be  found,  Zephyrinus  and  Callistus  were,  with  great 
probability,  directed  to  that  great  cemetery  which  at  a  very 
early  date  bore  the  name  of  Callistus,  on  account  of  the 
memories  of  S.  Peter  and  S.  Paul,  which  were  connected  with 
the  adjacent  cemetery  "  ad  Catacombas "  (S.  Sebastian) ; 
and  Marucchi  thinks  some  treasured  memory  of  the  great 
apostle  connected  with  the  beautiful  legend  of  the  "  Quo 
vadis  " — a  spot  not  far  from  the  Callistus  Cemetery — hung 
round  the  God's  acre  selected  for  the  site  of  the  Papal  Crypt. 

The  third  choice  of  a  spot  for  the  burying-place  of  the 
Popes,  the  basilica  on  the  S.  Priscilla  Catacomb,  has  been 
attributed  to  the  many  memories  of  S.  Peter  associated  with 
the  Catacomb  in  question,  which  are  now  identified  with  the 
scenes  of  S.  Peter's  teaching  and  baptizing. 

There  in  the  Basilica  of  S.  Sylvester,  until  the  great  trans 
lation  of  the  Catacomb  saints  in  the  pontificates  of  Paul  i 
and  Paschal  I  was  carried  out,  the  remains  of  the  seven  Popes, 
the  two  sons  of  Felicitas,  and  of  many  other  famous  and 


heroic  martyrs  rested.  When,  however,  the  precious  treasure 
of  these  saints'  remains  was  removed  to  the  securer  shelter 
of  the  metropolis  hard  by,  S.  Priscilla's  Catacomb  and  Basilica 
were  soon  forgotten. 

There  is,  alas  !  little  left  of  the  basilica  of  S.  Sylvester  ; 
its  very  existence  was  unknown  until  De  Rossi  discovered 
its  ruins  in  1889.  The  subterranean  crypt  and  corridors  and 
baptisteries  have  fared  better  than  the  basilica  built  above 
them,  and  have  already  provided  an  almost  inexhaustible 
mine  of  riches  for  the  antiquarian,  the  theologian,  and  the 
historian  ;  and  in  coming  years,  when  further  investigations 
in  this  vast  historical  cemetery  are  carried  out,  discoveries 
of  a  yet  greater  interest  may  be  looked  for — discoveries,  to 
use  the  words  of  the  latest  toiler  in  S.  Priscilla,  which 
may  tell  us  more  of  the  "passing  by"  of  S.  Peter  in 
this  venerable  home  of  so  many  and  such  varied  sacred 


Cemetery  of  S.  Pamphilus. — S.  Pamphilus,  we  learn  from 
the  Itineraries,  was  a  martyr  ;  nothing,  however,  is  known  of 
his  history. 

The  cemetery  has  not  been  thoroughly  explored.  It  is, 
however,  of  some  importance.  Several  galleries  have  been 
partially  examined — but  with  some  risk. 

The  Via  Solaria  Vetus,  by  the  side  of  which  this  Catacomb, 
is  situated,  branches  off  from  the  Via  Pinciana  on  the  north 
of  the  city. 

Cemetery  of  5.  Hermes  and  S.  Basilissa  is  on  the  same 
road,  a  little  farther  from  the  city. 

The  "  Acts  of  S.  Hermes  "  are  not  accepted  as  belonging 
to  the  very  early  date  (A.D.  119 — when  Hadrian  was  Emperor) 
of  the  martyrdom,  the  particular  event  they  profess  to  relate. 
These  Acts  relate  that  Hermes  was  a  Prefect  of  Rome.  No  such 
name  occurs  in  the  lists  of  Prefects.  It  has  been  suggested, 
however,  that  he  was  an  official  of  the  Prefect. 

The  remains  of   a  very  considerable   basilica  have  been 


discovered  in  this  Catacomb  ;  a  yet  older  building  apparently 
existed  in  the  same  position. 

The  galleries  of  graves  that  have  been  partially  explored 
are  in  a  very  ruinous  and  dangerous  condition.  It  is  recorded 
that  the  body  of  S.  Hermes  was  translated  by  Pope  Gregory 
IV  in  the  ninth  century.  There  are  parts  of  this  crumbling 
cemetery  evidently  of  great  antiquity. 

Other  martyrs,  once  well  known,  rest  in  this  Cata 
comb  ;  of  these,  S.  Basilissa,  S.  Protus  and  S.  Hyacinthus 
are  perhaps  the  best  known.  SS.  Protus  and  Hyacinthus 
apparently  suffered  in  the  persecution  of  Valerian,  A.D.  257-8. 
The  tomb  of  S.  Basilissa  has  not  been  identified. 

The  remains  of  S.  Hyacinthus  were  found  as  late  as  1841 
in  a  closed  loculus  and  wrapped  in  a  cloth  which  still  emitted 
a  sweet  perfume.  The  bones  had  evidently  been  burned. 
It  has  been  suggested  that  probably  the  martyr  had  suffered 
by  fire  ;  this  was  an  unusual  form  of  martyrdom.  The  name 
of  the  saint  and  date  of  the  deposition  and  the  word  Martyr 
were  on  the  loculus.  The  inscription  and  the  hallowed  remains 
are  now  in  the  Church  of  the  Propaganda. 

Probably  further  investigation  will  be  made  in  this  inter 
esting  but  ruined  Catacomb.  Researches  here,  however,  are 
difficult  and  dangerous.  Much  of  the  work  of  Damasus  in  the 
later  part  of  the  fourth  century  has  been  recognized  in  this  place. 
This  cemetery  was  apparently  held  in  high  estimation  by  the 
earlier  pilgrims. 

The  Itineraries  speak  of  another  cemetery  on  the  Via 
Salaria  Vetus  under  the  name  of  "ad  Clivum  Cucumeris." 
but  it  has  not  as  yet  been  identified. 

Cemetery  of  S.  Valentinus. — The  old  Via  Flaminia  leaves 
the  city  at  its  north-east  corner,  and  is  a  direct  continuation 
of  the  Corso.  It  is  the  great  road  communicating  with  the 
north  of  Italy,  as  the  Via  Appia  does  with  South  Italy.  It 
passes  through  the  Porta  del  Popolo,  formerly  the  Gate  of 
S.  Valentinus  ;  in  old  days  it  was  termed  the  Flaminian  Gate. 
On  this  Via  Flaminia  not  very  far  from  the  city  there  is  the 
Catacomb  of  S.  Valentinus — the  only  cemetery  on  this  road. 

S.  Valentinus  is  the  last  of  our  long  catalogue  of  subter 
ranean  cemeteries.  Little  is  known  of  the  confessor  and 


martyr  after  whom  this  Catacomb  is  named.  His  "  Acts,"  as 
we  possess  them,  were  only  compiled  in  the  sixth  century. 
Valentinus  suffered  martyrdom  circa  A.D.  268-70.  (Claudius 
Gothicus  was  then  Emperor.)  He  is  stated  to  have  been  a 
Christian  priest  and  physician. 

The  martyr's  body  was  recovered  by  Sabinilla,  a  Christian 
lady,  and  was  buried  near  the  place  where  he  suffered.  The 
desire  to  be  buried  near  S.  Valentinus  led  to  further  excava 
tions,  but  the  tufa  in  this  place  was  too  hard  and  did  not 
lend  itself  to  the  formation  of  galleries.  Corridors  were  ex 
cavated  above  the  tomb  of  the  martyr  ;  little,  however,  of 
interest  has  been  found  as  yet.  A  third  gallery  was  also 
constructed.  It  was  the  second  gallery  above  the  grave 
of  the  martyr  which  became  the  public  cemetery,  but  it  has 
been  only  very  partially  examined ;  much  is  still  blocked  up. 

Some  time  after  the  Peace  of  the  Church,  under  Pope  Julius, 
A.D.  337-52,  a  basilica  named  after  S.  Valentinus  was  built 
a  little  to  the  right  of  the  martyr's  crypt.  This  church  was 
restored,  probably  rebuilt,  by  Pope  Honorius  I,  A.D.  625-38. 
The  ruins  of  this  Church  of  S.  Valentinus  have  been  recently 
brought  to  light.  The  Itineraries  speak  of  the  body  of  S. 
Valentinus  as  in  the  restored  basilica.  These  sacred  remains 
were,  as  in  other  cases,  no  doubt  translated  from  their  original 
resting-place  into  the  church  above.  The  bodies  of  other 
martyrs  who  probably  suffered  in  the  Diocletian  persecution 
are  alluded  to  in  the  Pilgrim  Guides.  In  the  ruins  of  the 
basilica  a  chapel  was  identified  by  an  inscription  as  having 
been  dedicated  to  certain  of  the  local  martyrs,  and  with  these 
nameless  saints  S.  Zeno  is  mentioned  by  name.  S.  Zeno  was 
evidently  once  highly  venerated.  His  presence  here  is 
accounted  for  by  a  notice  in  one  of  the  Itineraries,  which 
styles  him  "  frater  Valentini," — possibly  only  signifying 
"  frater  in  Passione." 

S.  Zeno  was  buried  in  the  well-known  Cemetery  of  Prae- 
textatus  on  the  Appian  Way.  He  is  perhaps  best  known 
now  from  the  famous  Chapel  of  S.  Zeno  in  the  Church  of  S. 
Prassedis,  the  work  of  Pope  Paschal  i — usually  called  the 
"  Orto  del  Paradise."  A  mosaic  in  that  beautiful  chapel 
pictures  the  two  martyrs  S.  Valentinus  and  S.  Zeno  together. 



BARONIUS,  followed  by  Bishop  Lightfoot  of  Durham  and 
others,  calls  attention  to  an  etymological  difficulty  which 
exists  in  attempting  to  derive  Petronilla  from  Petros,  which 
at  first  sight  seems  so  obvious.  These  scholars  prefer  to 
connect  the  name  "  Petronilla  "  not  with  Petros  but  with 
"  Petronius."  Now,  the  founder  of  the  Flavian  family  was 
T.  Flavius  Petro.  Lightfoot  then  proceeds  to  suggest  that 
"  Petronilla  "  was  a  scion  of  the  Flavian  house,  and  became 
a  convert  to  Christianity,  probably  in  the  days  of  Antoninus 
Pius,  and  was  subsequently  buried  with  other  Christian  mem 
bers  of  the  great  Flavian  house  in  the  Domitilla  Cemetery. 

De  Rossi,  however,  and  other  recent  scholars  in  the  lore 
of  the  Catacombs,  in  spite  of  the  presumed  etymological 
difficulty,  decline  to  give  up  the  original  "  Pe trine  "  tradition, 
but  prefer  to  assume  that  Petronilla  was  a  daughter,  but 
only  a  spiritual  daughter,  of  the  great  apostle — that  is,  she 
was  simply  an  ordinary  convert  of  S.  Peter's. 

Of  these  two  hypotheses  :  (a)  dealing  with  the  first,  in  the 
very  free  and  rough  way  in  which  the  Latin  tongue  was 
treated  at  a  comparatively  early  date  in  the  story  of  the 
Empire,  when  grammar,  spelling,  and  prosody  were  very 
frequently  more  or  less  disregarded  save  in  highly  cultured 
circles,  the  etymological  difficulty  referred  to  by  Lightfoot 
can  scarcely  be  pressed,  for  it  possesses  little  weight. 

(b)  As  regards  the  second  hypothesis — the  shrinking, 
which  more  modern  Roman  Catholic  theologians  apparently 
feel,  from  the  acknowledgment  that  S.  Peter  had  a  daughter 
at  all,  was  absolutely  unknown  in  the  earlier  Christian  cen 
turies.  To  give  an  example.  As  late  as  the  close  of  the 



eighth  century,  on  an  altar  of  a  church  in  Bourges  dedicated 
to  the  Blessed  Virgin  and  other  saints,  there  is  an  inscription 
attributed  to  Alcuin  the  scholar  minister  of  Charlemagne. 
In  this  inscription  occurs  the  following  line  : 

"  Et  Petronilla  patris  praeclari  filia  Petri." 

Now,  towards  the  close  of  the  fourth  century,  Pope  Siricius, 
between  A.D.  391  and  A.D.  395,  constructed  the  important 
basilica  lately  discovered  in  the  Domitilla  Cemetery  on  the 
Via  Ardeatina  ;  but  although  the  basilica  in  question  con 
tained  the  historic  tombs  of  the  famous  martyrs  SS.  Nereus 
and  Achilles,  confessors  of  the  first  century,  as  well  as  the 
body  of  S.  Petronilla,  he  dedicated  the  basilica  in  question 
in  her  honour.  Pope  Siricius  would  surely  have  never  named 
this  important  and  very  early  church  after  a  comparatively  un 
known  member  of  the  Flavian  house  ;  still  less  would  he  have 
called  it  by  the  name  of  a  simple  convert  of  the  great  apostle. 

In  Siricius'  eyes  there  was  evidently  no  shadow  of  doubt 
but  that  the  Petronilla  for  whom  he  had  so  deep  a  veneration 
was  the  daughter  of  S.  Peter,  and  nothing  but  such  an  illus 
trious  lineage  can  possibly  account  for  the  persistent  devotion 
paid  to  her  remains,  a  devotion  which,  as  we  have  seen, 
endured  for  many  centuries  ;  the  ancient  tradition  that  she 
was  the  daughter  of  the  apostle  was  evidently  unvarying  and 

It  was  left  to  the  modern  scholar  in  his  zeal  for.  the  purity 
of  the  language  he  admired,  and  for  the  modern  devout 
Romanist  in  his  anxiety  to  show  that  S.  Peter  was  free  from 
all  home  and  family  ties,  to  throw  doubts  on  the  identity 
of  one  whom  an  unbroken  tradition  and  an  unswerving  rever 
ence  from  time  immemorial  regarded  as  the  daughter  of  the 
great  apostle  so  loved  and  revered  in  Rome. 

In  other  places  besides  in  Gaul  and  Rome  we  find  traces 
of  this  very  early  cult  of  S.  Petronilla.  In  the  neighbourhood  of 
Bury  St.  Edmunds  her  memory  was  anciently  reverenced  ; 
under  the  curious  abbreviation  of  "  S.  Parnel,"  still  in  that 
locality,  there  is  a  church  named  after  her — at  Whepstead, 
Bury  St.  Edmunds.  A  yet  more  remarkable  historical  refer 
ence  appears  in  "  Leland's  Itinerary,"  an  official  writing, 


be  it  understood,  which  dates  circa  A.D.  1539-40.  Leland, 
writing  of  Osric,  somewhile  king  of  Northumbria,  the  founder 
of  the  famous  Abbey  of  Gloucester,  tells  us  how  this  King 
Osric  "  first  laye  in  St.  Petronell's  Chappel,"  of  the  Gloucester 
Abbey.  Osric  died  in  the  year  of  grace  729. 

Thus  before  her  body,  at  the  instance  of  the  Prankish 
King  Pepin,  was  translated  into  the  little  imperial  mausoleum 
hard  by  the  great  Basilica  of  S.  Peter  from  her  tomb  on  the 
Via  Ardeatina,  there  was  a  Mercian  chapel  named  after  this 
Petronilla  in  the  heart  of  the  distant  and  only  very  imper 
fectly  christianized  Angle-land  (England). 

In  the  "  Historia  Monasterii  S.  Petri  Gloucestriae,"  a  docu 
ment,  or  rather  a  collection  of  documents,  of  great  value, 
we  find  an  entry  which  tells  us  how  Kyneburg,  the  sister  of 
King  Osric,  and  first  abbess  of  the  religious  house  of  Glou 
cester,  ruled  the  house  for  twenty-nine  years,  and,  dying  in 
A.D.  710,  was  buried  before  the  altar  of  S.  Petronilla  ;  and  later 
an  entry  in  the  same  Historia  relates  that  Queen  Eadburg, 
widow  of  Wulphere,  king  of  the  Mercians,  abbess  of  Glou 
cester  from  A.D.  710  to  A.D.  735,  was  buried  by  the  side  of 
Kyneburg  before  S.  Petronilla  s  altar.  King  Osric  himself, 
who  died  in  A.D.  729,  was  buried  in  the  same  grave  as  his 
sister  Kyneburg,  or  as  it  is  expressed  in  the  "  Historia," 
"in  ecclesia  Sancti  Petri  coram  altari  sanctae  Petronillae,  in 
Aquilonari  parte  ejusdem  monasterii." 

Professor  Freeman  quaintly  comments  here  as  follows  : 
"It  is  certain  that  there  was  a  church  of  some  kind,  a  pre 
decessor,  however  humble,  of  the  great  Cathedral  Church  (of 
Gloucester)  that  now  is,  at  least  from  the  days  of  Osric  (circa 
A.D.  729).  But  more  than  this  we  cannot  say,  except  that 
it  contained  an  altar  of  S.  Petronilla." 


S.  Peter's  Tomb. — While  Pope  Paul  v's  task  of  destroying 
and  rebuilding  the  eastern  end   of  old  S.  Peter's  (the  work 


of  Constantine)  was  proceeding,  somewhat  before  A.D.  1615  the 
same  Pope  designed  to  make  the  approaches  to  the  sacred 
"  Confession  "  of  the  apostle  at  the  west  end  of  the  church  more 
dignified,  and  it  was  in  the  course  of  building  stairs  and  making 
certain  excavations  which  were  necessary  to  carry  out  his 
plans  that  his  architect  came  upon  a  number  of  graves  in 
the  immediate  neighbourhood  of  the  walls  which  encircled 
the  hallowed  tomb  of  S.  Peter.  Here  was  evidently  the  old 
Cemetery  of  the  Vatican  which  originally  had  been  planned 
in  the  first  century  by  Anacletus.  Some  memoranda  of  this 
discovery  were  made.  But  it  was  a  few  years  later,  when 
more  important  excavations  were  carried  on  in  the  pontificate 
of  Pope  Urban  vm  (Cardinal  Barberini)  in  connection  with 
the  foundations  necessary  for  the  support  of  the  enormous 
baldachino  of  bronze  over  the  high  altar,  that  this  most  ancient 
cemetery  was  more  fully  brought  to  light. 

The  circumstances  which  led  to  these  discoveries  of 
Urban  vm  were  as  follows  :  The  date  is  about  A.D.  1626 ; 
Bernini  was  the  architect  in  the  Pope's  confidence,  and  it  was 
determined  to  replace  the  existing  canopy  over  the  altar  and 
confession,  which  was  considered  too  small  and  insignificant 
for  its  position,  by  the  great  and  massive  bronze  baldachino 
which  now  covers  the  high  altar  and  the  confession  leading 
to  the  sacred  tomb. 

The  materials  for  this  mighty  canopy  and  its  pillars  were 
obtained  from  the  portico  of  the  Pantheon,  the  roof  of 
the  portico  of  that  venerable  building  being  stripped  of  its 
gilded  bronze.  This  portico  had  survived  from  the  days  of 
its  builder  Agrippa,  the  son-in-law  of  the  Emperor  Augustus. 

The  act  of  Urban  vm,  thus  robbing  one  of  the  remaining 
glories  of  ancient  Rome,  was  severely  criticised  in  his  day, 
and  the  well-known  epigram  survives  to  commemorate  this 
strange  act  of  late  "  vandalism " :  "  Quod  barbari  non 
fecerunt,  fecit  Barberini." 

The  new  baldachino  or  canopy  of  Bernini's  was  95  feet 
in  height,  and  is  computed  to  weigh  nearly  100  tons.  To 
support  this  enormous  weight  of  metal  it  was  judged  neces 
sary  to  construct  deep  and  extensive  foundations.  It  was 
in  the  digging  out  and  building  up  of  these  substructures 

S.   I'KTKR'S.   ROMK— THK   CONFESSION.     '.•:,  KYKR-1U"RNIN< ;  LAMPS  ARK    IN 

TOMB  OF  S.  PETER  281 

in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  the  apostle's  tomb  that  the  re 
markable  discoveries  we  are  about  to  relate  were  made. 

The  account  from  which  we  quote  is  virtually  a  semi 
official  proces-verbal,  and  was  compiled  by  an  eye-witness — 
Ubaldi,  a  canon  of  S.  Peter's,  who  was  present  when  the  dis 
coveries  were  made,  and  who  has  left  us  his  notes  made  on 
the  spot  and  at  the  time.  Singularly  enough,  the  memoranda 
of  Ubaldi  lay  disregarded,  hidden  among  the  Vatican  archives 
until  comparatively  recently.  They  were  found 1  by  one  of 
the  keepers  of  these  archives,  and  have  been  published  lately 
by  Professor  Armellini. 

Before,  however,  giving  the  extracts  from  Ubaldi's  memor 
anda  of  the  discoveries  in  the  Cemetery  of  Anacletus  in  the 
year  1626,  it  will  be  of  material  assistance  to  the  reader  if 
a  short  account  of  the  probable  present  position  and  state 
of  the  great  apostle's  tomb  is  subjoined.  It  will  be  borne 
in  mind  that  the  excavations  in  connection  with  Bernini's 
baldachino  were  carried  out  close  to  the  tomb  in  ques 

The  vault,  in  which  we  believe  rests  the  sarcophagus 
wrhich  contains  the  sacred  remains  of  the  apostle,  lies  now 
deep  under  the  high  altar  of  the  great  church.  It  was  always 
subterranean,  and  no  doubt  from  the  earliest  days  was  visited 
by  numbers  of  believers  belonging  not  only  to  the  Roman 
congregation,  but  by  pilgrims  from  many  other  countries. 
Pope  Anacletus,  to  accommodate  these  numerous  pilgrim 
visitors,  built  directly  over  the  tomb  a  little  Memoria 
or  chapel.  This  apparently  was  done  by  raising  the  walls 
of  the  vault  beneath,  and  thus  a  chamber  or  chapel  above 
was  provided.  This  Memoria  of  Anacletus  is  generally 
known  as  the  confession.  Both  these  chambers  now  lie 
beneath  the  floor  of  the  existing  church.  Originally  the 
Memoria  of  Anacletus  above  the  chamber  of  the  tomb 

1  The  important  and  interesting  details  which  follow  here  have  been 
largely  taken  from  the  chapter  which  treats  of  Uhaldi's  Memoir  by  Mr.  Barnes 
in  his  admirable  and  massive  work  entitled  5.  Peter  at  Rome  (ist  edit.  1900). 
The  writer  of  this  book  can  hardly  find  terms  to  express  his  deep  admiration 
for  the  learning  and  information  contained  in  Mr.  Barnes'  work  on  the  subject. 
It  is  by  far  the  most  exhaustive  and  scholarly  work  on  the  subject  in  our 


showed  above  ground ;  it  is  no  doubt  the  "  Tropaeum " 
alluded  to  by  the  Presbyter  Caius,  circa  A.D.  210. 

Roughly,  the  height  of  the  two  chambers  from  the  floor 
of  the  original  vault  to  the  ceiling  of  the  Memoria  built 
over  it  is  some  32  feet.  There  is  little  difference  in  the  height 
of  each  of  these  two  chambers. 

The  probable  explanation  of  the  details  given  in  the  Liber 
Pontificalis  of  the  works  of  Constantine  the  Great  at  the  tomb 
is  as  follows  :  Both  the  chambers  of  the  tomb — the  original 
vault  and  the  Memoria  of  Anacletus  over  it  —  were  left 
intact,  but  with  certain  added  features,  simply  devised  with 
the  view  of  strengthening  and  ensuring  the  permanence  of 
the  sacred  spot  and  its  contents.  The  whole  of  the  chamber 
of  the  tomb  was  then  filled  up  with  solid  masonry,  except 
immediately  above  the  sarcophagus. 

The  upper  chamber,  the  Memoria,  was  strengthened 
with  masses  of  masonry  on  each  side,  so  as  to  bear  the  weight 
of  a  great  altar,  the  high  altar  of  the  Basilica  of  Constantine, 
which  was  erected  so  as  to  stand  immediately  over  the  body 
of  S.  Peter.  A  cataract  or  billicum,  as  it  is  sometimes  called, 
covered  with  a  bronze  grating,  opened  from  above  close  to  the 
altar.  There  are  two  of  these  little  openings,  one  leading 
into  the  Memoria,  and  the  other  from  the  Memoria  to  the 
chamber  of  the  tomb  beneath.  Through  these  openings 
handkerchiefs  and  such-like  objects  would  be  lowered  so  as 
to  touch  the  sarcophagus.  This  we  know  was  .not  unfre- 
quently  permitted  in  the  fifth,  sixth,  seventh,  and  eighth 
centuries.  Such  objects  after  they  had  touched  the  cofHn 
were  esteemed  as  most  precious  relics. 

In  addition  to  these  works  in  the  two  chambers,  the  Em 
peror  Constantine  enclosed  the  original  stone  coffin  which 
contained  the  remains  of  S.  Peter  in  bronze,  and  laid  upon  this 
bronze  sarcophagus  the  great  cross  of  gold — the  gift  of  his 
mother  Helena  and  himself.  This  is  the  cross  which  Pope 
Clement  vm  and  his  cardinals  saw  dimly  gleaming  below, 
when  an  opening  to  the  tomb  was  suddenly  disclosed  in  the 
great  building  operations  which  were  carried  out  during  the 
last  years  of  the  sixteenth  century. 

There  is  scarcely  room  now  for  doubt  that  the  bronze 

TOMB  OF  S.  PETER  283 

coffin  and  the  golden  cross  are  still  in  the  chamber  of  the 
tomb  where  Constantine  placed  them. 

When  it  was  found  necessary  to  excavate  for  the  founda 
tion  of  the  new  massive  baldachino,  Pope  Urban  vm  was 
alarmed  at  first  lest  the  sacred  tomb  should  be  disturbed. 
The  warnings  of  Pope  Gregory  the  Great  against  meddling 
with  the  tombs  of  saints  like  Peter  and  Paul  being  remembered, 
"  no  one  dare  even  pray  there,"  he  once  wrote,  "  without 
much  fear/1  Three  years  were  spent  in  preparation  for  the 
work  and  in  casting  the  baldachino.  Then  the  sudden  death 
of  Alemanni,  the  custodian  of  the  Vatican  library,  who  had 
the  chief  charge  in  the  preparative  work,  and  the  passing  away 
of  two  of  the  Pope's  confidential  staff  just  as  the  work  com 
menced,  appalled  men's  minds ;  but  after  some  hesitation  it 
was  decided  to  go  on  with  the  necessary  excavations — "  All 
possible  precautions,"  Ubaldi  tells  us,  "  being  taken  for  the 
preservation  of  the  reverence  due  to  the  spot,  and  for  the 
security  of  the  relics."  The  Pope  commanded,  "  that  while 
the  labourers  were  at  work  there  should  always  be  present 
some  of  the  priests  and  ministers  of  the  Church." 

Ubaldi  describes  at  length  what  was  found,  when  each  of  the 
four  foundations  for  the  four  great  columns  of  the  baldachino 
was  dug  out.  We  will  quote  a  few  of  Ubaldi's  memoranda, 
and  then  give  a  little  summary  of  what  apparently  was  dis 
covered  in  this  perhaps  the  most  ancient,  certainly  the  most 
interesting,  of  the  subterranean  cemeteries  of  Christian  Rome. 

In  the  excavation  of  the  first  foundation — "  only  two  or 
three  inches  under  the  pavement  they  began  to  find  coffins  and 
sarcophagi.  Those  nearest  to  the  altar  (above)  were  placed 
laterally  against  an  ancient  wall"  (this  was  doubtless  part 
of  the  wall  of  the  Memoria  of  Anacletus),  "  and  from  this 
they  judged  that  these  must  be  the  bodies  buried  nearest  to 
the  sepulchre  of  S.  Peter.  These  were  coffins  of  marble  made 
of  simple  slabs  of  different  sizes."  Only  one  seems  to  have 
borne  an  inscription,  and  that  was  the  solitary  word  "  Linus." 
Was  not  this  the  coffin  of  the  first  Pope,  the  Linus  saluted  in 
S.  Paul's  Roman  Epistle  ? 

'  Two  of  these  coffins  were  uncovered.     The  bodies,  which 
were  clothed  with  long  robes  down  to  the  heels,  dark  and 


almost  black  with  age,  and  which  were  swathed  with  bandages, 
.  .  .  when  these  were  touched  and  moved  they  were  resolved 
into  dust.  .  .  .  We  can  only  conclude  that  those  who 
were  found  so  close  to  the  body  of  S.  Peter  must  have  been 
the  first  (Martyr)  Popes  or  their  immediate  successors.  .  .  . 

"  On  the  same  level,  close  up  to  the  wrall  (of  the  Memoria) 
were  found  two  other  coffins  of  smaller  size,  each  of  which 
contained  a  small  body,  apparently  of  a  child  of  ten  or  twelve 
years  old."  Were  these,  whose  bodies  had  obtained  the  pri 
vilege  of  interment  so  close  to  the  grave  of  S.  Peter,  little 
martyrs  ?  .  .  .  Close  by  ...  were  two  (coffins)  of  ancient 
terra -cotta  full  of  ashes  and  burnt  bones,  .  .  .  other  fragments 
of  similar  coffins  were  found  deeper  down  as  the  excavations 
proceeded,  and  also  pieces  of  glass  from  broken  phials.  It  was 
evident  that  all  this  earth  was  mixed  with  ashes  and  tinged 
with  the  blood  of  martyrs.  .  .  .  There  were  also  found  pieces 
of  charred  wood  which  one  might  believe  had  served  for  the 
burning  of  the  martyrs,  and  had  afterwards  been  collected  as 
jewels  and  buried  there  with  their  ashes." 

A  little  farther  on  Ubaldi  writes,  still  speaking  of  what 
was  found  where  the  first  foundation  was  excavated  :  "  There 
was  next  found  a  small  well  in  which  were  a  great  number 
of  bones  mixed  with  ashes  and  earth  ;  then  again  another 
coffin  ;  near  this  was  found  another  square  place  on  the  sides 
of  which  more  bodies  were  found,  while  on  one  side  was  the 
continuation  of  a  very  ancient  wall  (the  Memoria  of  Anacletus). 
This  wall  contained  a  niche  which  had  been  used  as  a  sepulchre, 
and  in  it  were  found  five  heads  fixed  with  plaster  and  care 
fully  arranged,  also  being  well  preserved.  Lower  down  were 
the  ribs  all  together,  and  the  other  parts  in  their  order  mingled 
with  much  earth  and  ashes,  not  laid  casually,  but  with 
accuracy  and  great  care.  All  this  holy  company  were  shut 
in  and  well  secured  with  lime  and  mortar.  .  .  . 

"  It  now  became  necessary  to  consider  how  the  holy  bones 
and  bodies  which  had  been  taken  up  might  best  be  laid  in 
some  fitting  and  memorable  place  ;  they  had  been  placed  in 
several  cases  of  cypress  wood,  and  had  been  carried  before  the 
little  altar  of  S.  Peter  in  the  confession,  and  here  all  through 
these  days  they  had  been  kept  locked  up  and  under  seal. 

TOMB  OF  S.  PETER  285 

It  was  felt  that  they  ought  not  to  be  deprived  of  the  privilege  of 
being  near  to  the  body  of  S.  Peter.  .  .  .  So  it  was  resolved  that, 
as  they  had  been  found  buried  together  and  undistinguished 
by  names,  so  still  one  grave  should  hold  them  all,  since  the 
holy  martyrs  are  all  one  in  eternity," — as  S.  Gregory  Naz- 
ianzen  wonderfully  says — "  ...  a  suitable  and  capacious 
grave  was  constructed  "  (close  to  the  spot)  "  and  there  rein 
terment  took  place.  The  following  inscription  cut  in  a  plate 
of  lead  was  placed  within  the  tomb — 

Corpora  Sanctorum  prope  sepulchrum  sancti  Petri  inventa, 
cum  fundamenta  effoderentur  CBYBIS  Columnis  (of  the  bal- 
dachino  of  Bernini}  ab  Urbano  vui — super  hac  fornice 
erectis,  hie  siul  collecta  et  reposita  die  28  Julii  1626  " 

In  digging  for  the  second  foundation  a  very  wonderful 
"  find  "  was  recorded.  Ubaldi  relates  how,  "  not  more  than 
three  or  four  feet  down,  there  was  discovered  at  the  side  a 
large  coffin  made  of  great  slabs  of  marble.  .  .  .  Within 
were  ashes  with  many  bones  all  adhering  together  and  half 
burned.  These  brought  back  to  mind  the  famous  fire  in  the 
time  of  Nero,  three  years  before  S.  Peter's  martyrdom,  when 
the  Christians,  being  falsely  accused  of  causing  the  fire,  and 
pronounced  guilty  of  the  crime,  afforded  in  the  circus  of  the 
gardens  of  Nero,  which  were  situated  just  here  on  the  Vatican 
Hill,  the  first  spectacles  of  martyrdom.  Some  were  put  to 
death  in  various  cruel  ways,  while  others  were  set  on  fire,  and 
used  as  torches  in  the  night,  thus  inaugurating  on  the  Vatican, 
by  the  light  that  they  gave,  the  living  splendour  of  the  true 
religion.  .  .  .  These,  so  they  say,  were  buried  close  to  the 
place  where  they  suffered  martyrdom,  and  gave  the  first 
occasion  for  the  religious  veneration  of  this  holy  spot.  .  .  . 
We  therefore  revered  these  holy  bones,  as  being  those  of  the 
first  founders  of  the  great  basilica  and  the  first-fruits  of  our 
martyrs,  and  having  put  back  the  coffin  allowed  it  to  remain 
in  the  same  place." 

With  great  pathos  Mr.  Barnes,  from  whose  translation 
of  the  Ubaldi  Memoranda  on  the  discoveries  in  the 
Cemetery  of  Anacletus  these  extracts  are  taken,  describes 


the  scene  of  the  interment  of  these  sad  remains  of  the 
martyrs  in  the  games  of  Nero.  We  quote  a  passage  specially 
bearing  on  this  strange  and  wonderful  "  find,"  where,  after 
describing  what  took  place  in  the  famous  games,  he  went  on 
thus  : 

"  The  horrible  scene  drew  to  a  close  at  last ;  the  living 
torches,  burning  slowly,  flickered  and  went  out,  leaving  but 
a  heap  of  ashes  and  half-burnt  flesh  behind  them  ;  the  crowds 
of  sightseers  wended  their  way  back  to  the  city,  and  silence 
fell  again  on  the  gardens  of  Nero.  Then  there  crept  out 
through  the  darkness,  within  the  circus  and  along  the  paths 
of  the  gardens,  a  fresh  crowd — men  and  women,  maidens  and 
even  little  children,  taking  every  one  of  them  as  they  went 
their  lives  in  their  hands,  for  detection  meant  a  cruel  death 
on  the  morrow ;  eager  to  save  what  they  could  of  the  relics 
of  the  martyrs  :  bones  that  had  been  gnawed  by  dogs  and 
wild  beasts  ;  ashes  and  half-burnt  flesh,  and  other  sad  rem 
nants,  all  of  them  precious  indeed  in  the  sight  of  their  brethren 
who  are  left,  relics  that  must  not  be  lost.  .  .  .  Close  by  the 
circus,  on  the  other  side  of  the  Via  Aurelia,  some  Christians  had 
already  a  tiny  plot  of  ground  available  for  purposes  of  burial. 
There  on  the  morrow,  in  a  great  chest  of  stone,  were  deposited 
all  the  remains  that  could  be  collected ;  for  it  was  out  of  the 
question  to  keep  them  separate  one  from  another."  It  was 
the  beginning  of  the  Vatican  Cemetery,  hereafter  to  become 
so  famous.  "  .  .  .  More  than  1600  years  afterward,  when 
the  excavations  were  being  made  for  the  new  baldachino 
over  the  altar  tomb  of  S.  Peter  himself,  the  sad  relics  of  this 
first  great  persecution  were  brought  to  light.  But  they 
were  not  disturbed,  and  still  rest  in  the  place  where  they  were 
originally  laid,  where  now  rises  above  them  the  glorious  dome 
of  the  first  Church  of  Christendom." 

In  the  memoranda  on  the  third  foundation  there  is  nothing 
of  very  special  interest  to  note. 

On  the  fourth  foundation  Ubaldi  wrote  the  following 
strange  and  peculiarly  interesting  note  :  "  Almost  at  the  level 
of  the  pavement  there  was  found  a  coffin  made  of  fine  and 
large  slabs  of  marble.  .  .  .  This  coffin  was  placed,  just  as  were 
the  others  which  were  found  on  the  other  side,  within  the 

TOMB  OF  S.  PETER  287 

circle  of  the  presbytery,  in  such  a  manner  that  they  were  all 
directed  towards  the  altar  like  spokes  toward  the  centre  of 
a  wheel.  Hence  it  was  evident  with  how  much  reason  this 
place  merited  the  name  of  '  the  Council  of  Martyrs.'  .  .  . 
These  bodies  surrounded  S.  Peter  just  as  they  would  have 
done  when  living  at  a  synod  or  council." 

These  apparently  were  the  remains  of  the  first  Bishops  or 
Popes  of  Rome,  for  whom  Anacletus  made  special  provision 
when  he  arranged  this  earliest  of  cemeteries.  Their  names 
are,  Linus  whose  coffin  lies  apart  but  still  close  to  the  apostle's 
tomb,  Anacletus,  Evaristus,  Sixtus  I,  Telesphorus,  Hyginus, 
Pius  I,  Eleutherius,  and  Victor.  Victor  was  laid  in  this  sacred 
spot  in  the  year  of  grace  203.  After  him  no  Bishop  of  Rome 
was  interred  in  the  Cemetery  of  Anacletus  on  the  Vatican 
Hill.  Originally  of  but  small  dimensions,  by  that  date  it 
was  filled  up,  and  the  successors  of  Pope  Victor,  we  know,  were 
interred  in  a  chamber  appropriated  to  them  in  the  Cemetery 
of  S.  Callistus  in  the  great  Catacomb  so  named  on  the  Appian 

The  other  interments  in  the  sacred  Vatican  Cemetery  in 
the  immediate  neighbourhood  of  the  apostle's  tomb — some 
of  the  more  notable  of  which  have  been  noticed  in  our  little 
extracts  from  the  Ubaldi  Memoranda — were  apparently  the 
bodies  or  the  sad  remains  of  martyrs  of  the  first  and  second 
centuries  of  the  Christian  era,  or  in  a  few  cases  of  distinguished 
confessors  of  the  Faith  whose  names  and  story  are  forgotten, 
but  to  whom  Prudentius  (quoted  on  p.  216)  has  alluded. 

There  is  an  invaluable  record  of  what  lies  beneath  the 
high  altar  and  the  western  part  of  the  great  Mother  Church 
of  Christendom. 

In  a  rare  plan  of  this  Cemetery  of  the  Vatican  drawn 
by  Benedetto  Drei,  Master  Mason  of  Pope  Paul  v,  which 
apparently  was  made  during  the  period  of  the  first  discoveries 
under  Paul  v,  some  time  between  A.D.  1607  and  1615,  and 
which  has  received  certain  later  corrections  no  doubt  after 
the  second  series  of  discoveries  consequent  upon  the  excava 
tions  for  the  foundations  in  the  neighbourhood  of  the  tomb 
of  S.  Peter,  for  the  great  bronze  baldachino  of  Bernini  in  the 
days  of  Pope  Urban  vm,  about  A.D.  1626. 


This  plan  of  Drei  is  most  valuable,  though  not  accurate 
in  detail.  It  marks  the  position  of  some  of  the  graves  which 
were  found,  but  not  of  all  that  were  disclosed  in  the  second 
series  of  discoveries  under  Urban  vm.  It  was  not  issued 
until  A.D.  1635.  This  later  date  explains  the  corrections 
which  have  been  inserted. 





OUT  of  the  many  pages  of  Catacomb  lore,  the  story  of  the 
Crypt  of  S.  Cecilia  and  its  recent  discovery,  and  the 
identification  of  the  burial-places  of  S.  Felicitas  and 
her  seven  sons,  have  been  selected  to  be  told  here  as  specially 
interesting   examples    of  the  historical   and    theological   im 
portance  of  these  investigations  among  the  forgotten  ceme 
teries  of  subterranean  Rome. 

Allard's  words  in  his  edition  of  Northcote  and  Brownlow's 
exhaustive  resume  of  a  portion  of  De  Rossi's  monumental  work, 
deserve  quoting.  Writing  of  S.  Cecilia,  he  says  : 

"  Les  decouvertes  modernes  Font  bien  vengee  du  scepticisme 
ou  de  la  prudence  excessive  de  Tillemont :  on  sait  aujourd'hui 
que  Sainte  Cecile  n'est  ni  un  mythe,  ni  une  martyre  venue  de 
Sicile,  mais  une  vraie  Romaine,  du  plus  pur  sang  remain  ;  sa 
noble  et  gracieuse  figure  est  decidement  sortie  des  brumes  de  la 
legende  pour  entrer  dans  le  plein  jour  de  1'histoire." 

The  "  Acts  "  of  her  martyrdom  in  their  present  form  are 
probably  not  older  than  the  fifth  century,  although  S.  Cecilia 
suffered  in  the  reign  of  the  Emperor  Marcus  Antoninus,  circa 
A.D.  177.  But  these  "  Acts  "  are  undoubtedly  very  largely 
based  upon  a  contemporaneous  record  :  the  recent  discoveries 
have  enabled  historical  criticism  fairly  to  restore  what  was 
original  in  the  story  of  the  martyr. 
19  *89 


Cecilia  was  a  noble  Roman  lady,  who  belonged  to  a  family 
of  senatorial  rank  ;  her  father  apparently  was  a  pagan,  or  if  a 
Christian  at  all  was  a  man  of  the  world  rather  than  an  earnest 
believer,  for  he  gave  his  daughter  in  marriage  to  a  young 
patrician,  one  Valerianus,  a  pagan,  but  a  pagan  of  the  highest 
character.  Cecilia  was  a  devoted  Christian  :  at  once  she 
induced  her  husband  and  his  brother  Tiburtius  to  abjure 
idolatry.  Accused  of  Christianity  at  a  moment  when  the 
Government  of  the  Emperor  Marcus  was  determined  to  stamp 
out  the  fast-growing  religion  of  Jesus,  the  two  brothers  were 
condemned  to  death,  and  they  suffered  martyrdom  in  company 
with  the  Roman  officer  who  presided  at  their  execution,  and 
who,  beholding  the  constancy  of  the  two  young  patricians, 
embraced  the  faith  which  had  enabled  them  to  witness  their 
good  confession. 

Cecilia  shared  in  their  condemnation.  The  Government, 
however,  dreading  the  example  of  the  death  of  so  prominent 
a  personage  in  Roman  society,  determined  to  put  her  to  death 
as  privately  as  possible.  She  was  doomed  to  die  in  her  own 
palace.  The  furnaces  which  heated  the  baths  were  heated 
far  beyond  the  usual  extent,  and  Cecilia  was  exposed  to  the 
deadly  and  suffocating  fumes.  These  failed  in  their  effect : 
after  being  exposed  in  her  chamber  for  a  night  and  a  day  to 
these  fumes,  she  was  still  living,  apparently  unharmed.  The 
Prefect  of  the  city,  who  was  in  charge  of  Cecilia's  execution, 
then  gave  orders  to  a  lictor  to  decapitate  the  young  Christian 
lady  who  persistently  refused  to  abjure  her  religion. 

There  is  nothing  improbable  in  the  story,  which  goes  on  to 
relate  how  the  executioner,  unnerved  with  his  grim  task, 
inflicted  three  mortal  wounds,  but  Cecilia,  though  dying,  yet 
breathed  and  preserved  consciousness. 

The  Roman  law  forbade  more  than  three  strokes  with  the 
sword,  and  she  lived  on  for  two  days  and  nights,  during  which 
long  protracted  agony  she  was  visited  by  her  friends,  among 
whom  was  a  Bishop  Urbanus,  not  the  Urbanus  Bishop  of 
Rome,  as  the  "  Acts  "  with  some  confusion  tell  us,  but  another 
Urbanus,  probably  a  prelate  of  some  smaller  see. 

After  she  had  passed  away,  her  body  with  all  care  and 
reverence  was  laid  in  a  sepulchral  chamber  which  subse- 


quently  became  part  of  the  great  Cemetery  of  Callistus.  The 
martyr  was  interred  evidently  in  a  vault  or  crypt  which 
belonged  to  her  illustrious  family ;  several  inscriptions  belong 
ing  to  Christian  members  of  the  gens  Csecilia  have  been  found 
in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  S.  Cecilia's  grave.  Less  than  a 
quarter  of  a  century  after  her  martyrdom,  the  subterranean 
cemetery  in  which  the  Csecilian  vault  was  situated  became 
part  of  the  general  property  of  the  Roman  congregations. 
Callistus,  afterwards  Bishop  of  Rome,  held  a  high  office  under 
Bishop  Zephyrinus,  and  he  was  set  over  the  cemetery,  which 
was  subsequently  called  after  him,  the  Cemetery  of  Callistus. 
At  the  beginning  of  the  third  century — as  in  the  Vatican 
Crypt,  where  the  earliest  Bishops  of  Rome  had  been  deposited 
round  the  body  of  S.  Peter,  there  was  no  more  room  for 
interments — Callistus  arranged  the  sepulchral  chamber  known 
as  the  Papal  Crypt  to  be  the  official  burying-place  of  the  Bishops 
of  Rome.  The  chamber  in  which  S.  Cecilia  was  laid  was 
close  by  this  Papal  Crypt.  De  Rossi  graphically  expresses 
this  :  "  Ce  n'est  done  pas  sainte  Cecile  qui  fut  enterree  parmi 
les  Papes,  c'est  elle  au  contraire  qui  fit  aux  Papes  du  IIIme 
siecle  les  honneurs  de  sa  demeure  funebre."  (From  Allard.) 

We  will  trace  the  story  of  the  celebrated  Roman  saint 
through  the  ages. 

The  statement  contained  in  the  "  Acts  of  S.  Cecilia  " 
of  her  interment  in  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Callistus  no  doubt  is 
accurate,  although  the  hand  of  a  somewhat  later  "  redactor  " 
is  manifest,  for  the  cemetery  only  obtained  its  title  of  "  Cal 
listus  "  some  thirty  years  after  the  martyrdom  of  the  saint. 
S.  Cecilia  at  once  seems  to  have  won  a  prominent  place  among 
the  martyrs  and  confessors  of  the  persecution  of  Marcus 
Aurelius.  This  is  accounted  for  not  only  by  the  dramatic 
scenes  which  a  generally  accepted  tradition  tells  us  were  the 
accompanying  features  of  her  passion,  but  also  by  the  high 
rank  and  position  of  the  sufferer  and  her  generous  bequest  to 
the  Roman  congregations. 

Towards  the  close  of  the  fourth  century  S.  Cecilia's  crypt 
was  among  the  popular  sanctuaries  specially  cared  for  by 
Pope  Damasus,  much  of  whose  work  is  still,  in  spite  of  centuries 


of  neglect,  clearly  visible.  Damasus'  work  here  was  by  no 
means  confined  to  decoration,  but  included  elaborate  arrango 
ments  for  the  visits  of  pilgrims  to  the  shrine,  such  as  a  special 
staircase  and  considerable  masonry  work  to  secure  the  walls 
and  approaches.  Somewhat  later,  Pope  Sixtus  in,  A.D. 
432-40,  continued  and  amplified  the  decoration  and  con 
structive  improvements  of  his  predecessor  Damasus. 

The  decorations  and  paintings  of  this  crypt,  as  at  present 
visible,  clearly  date  from  the  fourth,  fifth,  sixth,  and  seventli 
centuries.  De  Rossi  considers  that  the  existence  of  these  succes 
sive  decorations,  and  the  fact  that  various  works,  constructive 
as  well  as  ornamental,  were  evidently  at  different  epochs 
executed  here,  tell  us  that  this  is  an  historic  sepulchral  chamber 
highly  venerated  by  many  generations  of  pilgrim  visitors. 

From  very  early  times,  most  probably  from  the  days  of 
the  Emperor  Marcus,  there  has  been  a  church  traditional!)' 
constructed  on  the  site  of  an  ancient  house,  the  house  o: 
the  martyr  Valerian,  Cecilia's  husband.  Recent  investigations, 
have  gone  far  to  substantiate  the  ancient  tradition,  for  beneath 
the  existing  Church  of  S.  Cecilia  portions  of  an  important 
Roman  house  of  the  second  century  have  come  to  light. 

The  church,  originally  a  private  house  of  prayer,  at  a 
very  remote  period  became  a  public  basilica.  It  had  fallen 
into  a  ruinous  condition,  and  was  rebuilt  by  Pope  Paschal  ] 
in  the  ninth  century.  This  restoration  of  the  old  basilican 
church  no  doubt  suggested  to  Paschal  his  inquiry  after  the 
remains  of  the  loved  martyr  in  whose  memory  the  church 
had  been  originally  dedicated.  The  dramatic  and  well-authen 
ticated  story  of  the  finding  of  the  body  by  Paschal  is  as  follows  : 


The  great  translation  of  the  remains  of  the  2300  martyrs 
and  confessors  from  the  catacombs  into  the  city  for  the  sake 
of  protecting  these  precious  relics  from  barbarian  pillage 
took  place  in  the  days  of  Pope  Paschal  I  (ninth  century). 
When  this  translation  was  going  on,  Paschal  made  an  inquiry 
after  the  bury  ing-place  of  S.  Cecilia.  Although  the  lengthy 
entry  in  the  Liber  Pontificalis  makes  no  mention  of  any  special 

c  c 

•*•    i— 

ii  o 

*   O 


reason  for  this  investigation,  there  is  no  doubt  but  that  the 
restoration  work  which  was  being  carried  on  at  the  basilica 
of  the  saint  across  the  Tiber  suggested  it  to  the  Pope.  The 
tomb  of  the  famous  saint  could  not  be  found,  although  for 
centuries  it  had  been  emphatically  alluded  to  in  several  of  the 
Pilgrim  Itineraries,  and  in  the  yet  more  ancient  "  Guide,"  subse 
quently  copied  by  William  of  Malmesbury  several  centuries  later. 

It  was  about  the  year  of  grace  821,  after  long  and  fruitless 
searching  for  the  lost  tomb,  and  when  he  had  come  to  the 
conclusion  that  the  body  of  S.  Cecilia  had  been  carried  away 
probably  by  Astolphus  and  the  Lombards  in  their  destructive 
raids,  and  that  the  tomb  had  been  destroyed,  that  Pope 
Paschal  early  one  morning,  while  listening  to  the  singing  of  the 
Psalms  in  the  great  Vatican  Basilica,  fell  asleep  ;  as  he  slept 
he  saw  the  form  of  a  saint  in  glory ;  she  disclosed  her  name, 
"  Cecilia,"  and  told  him  where  1  to  look  for  her  tomb. 

Acting  upon  the  words  of  the  saint  in  the  vision,  he  found 
at  once  the  lost  tomb,  and  when  the  coffin  of  cypress  wood 
was  opened,  the  body  of  Cecilia  was  seen  unchanged,  still 
wrapped  in  the  gold-embroidered  robe  in  which  she  had  been 
clothed  when  her  loving  friends  laid  her  to  rest  after  her 
martyrdom,  with  the  linen  cloths  stained  with  her  blood 
folded  together  at  her  feet. 

She  lay  in  the  position  in  which  she  had  passed  away. 
Those  who  had  buried  her,  left  her  thus — not  lying  upon 
the  back  like  a  body  in  a  tomb,  but  upon  the  right  side,  with 
her  knees  drawn  together  and  her  face  turned  away — her 
arms  stretched  out  before  her.  In  her  touching  and  graceful 
attitude  she  seemed  as  though  she  was  quietly  sleeping. 

Just  as  he  found  her,  in  the  same  coffin  with  the  robe  of 
golden  tissue  and  the  blood-stained  linen  folded  by  her  feet, 

1  The  text  of  the  Liber  Pontificals  mentions  the  Cemetery  of  Praetextatus 
as  the  site  of  the  lost  tomb.  It  was  there  where  her  husband  Valerian 
and  his  brother  and  the  officer  Maximus  had  been  buried.  Duchesne, 
the  learned  editor  of  the  Liber  Pontificalis,  suggests  that  the  body  of 
S.  Cecilia  had  been  removed  from  its  original  resting-place  in  the  Crypt 
of  S.  Callistus,  and  had  been  secretly  placed  for  safety's  sake  in  the  Cemetery 
of  Praetextatus.  De  Rossi,  however,  and  later  Marucchi,  believe  that  the 
Cemetery  of  Praetextatus,  through  an  error  in  the  Liber  Pontificalis,  had  been 
written  for  "  Cemetery  of  Callistus." 


Pope  Paschal  reverently  deposited  her  in  a  crypt  beneath  the 
altar  of  her  church  in  the  Trastevere  district,  simply  covering 
the  body  with  a  thin  veil  of  silk. 

Nearly  eight  hundred  years  after  (A.D.  1599),  Sfondrati, 
titular  Cardinal  of  the  Church,  while  carrying  out  some  works 
of  restoration  and  repair  in  this  ancient  Church  of  S.  Cecilia, 
came  upon  a  large  crypt  under  the  high  altar.  In  the  crypt 
were  two  ancient  marble  sarcophagi.  Responsible  witnesses 
were  summoned,  and  in  their  presence  the  sarcophagi  were 
carefully  opened.  In  one  of  these  the  body  of  S.  Cecilia  lay 
just  as  it  had  been  seen  eight  centuries  before  by  Pope  Paschal  I 
—in  the  same  pathetic  attitude,  robed  in  gold  tissue  with  the 
linen  cloths  blood-stained  at  her  feet. 

Every  care  was  taken  by  the  reigning  Pope  Clement  vin 
to  provide  careful  witnesses  of  this  strange  discovery  ;  among 
these  were  the  famous  scholars  Cardinal  Baronius  and  Bosio  ; 
the  greatest  artist  of  the  day,  Stefano  Maderno,  was  summoned 
to  view  the  dead  saint  and  to  execute  the  beautiful  marble 
portrait  which  now  lies  in  the  recess  of  the  Confession  beneath 
the  high  altar  of  the  well-known  church  in  the  Trastevere  at 
Rome.  In  an  inscription,  Maderno,  the  artist,  tells  how  he 
saw  Cecilia  lying  incorrupt  and  unchanged  in  her  tomb,  and 
how  in  the  marble  he  has  represented  the  saint  just  as  he 
saw  her.1 

1  The  writer  of  this  book  simply  tells  the  story  as  it  has  been  handed  down 
and  often  repeated.  From  the  clear  testimony  of  the  responsible  and  eminent 
witnesses  above  referred  to — such  men  as  Baronius,  Bosio,  and  Maderno — 
there  seems  little  doubt  but  that  they  had  looked  upon  the  hallowed  remains 
resting  as  Maderno  in  his  marble  portrait  has  depicted  her.  De  Rossi  and 
others  seem  to  represent  the  state  of  the  body  as  though  it  had  been  miraculously 
preserved  ;  the  truth  probably  is  that  the  body  of  Cecilia  had  been  carefully 
and  skilfully  embalmed  owing  to  the  loving  care  of  her  friends,  and  laid  in 
the  peculiar  position  in  which  she  breathed  her  last.  The  high  rank  and 
great  wealth  of  her  family,  and  the  usual  gentle  and  humane  practice  of  the 
Roman  Government  in  the  case  of  those  who  had  been  judicially  put  to  death, 
would  bear  out  this  explanation.  No  expense  would  have  been  deemed  too 
great  by  the  powerful  family  of  Cecilia  to  do  honour  to  her  precious  remains. 

Of  the  enduring  "  popularity  " — to  use  a  commonplace  expression — of  S. 
Cecilia,  the  fact  of  Cecilia  being  one  of  the  few  chosen  female  saints  daily 
commemorated  in  the  canon  of  the  Mass,  may  be  fairly  adduced.  She  is  classed 
with  Felicitas,  Perpetua,  Agatha,  Lucia,  Anastasia,  and  Agnes. 

It  is  often  asked  why  she  is  locked  on  as  the1  patroness  of  music.     Nothing 


The  second  sarcophagus  found  by  Cardinal  Sfondrati  in 
the  crypt  of  the  Church  of  S.  Cecilia  beneath  the  high  altar, 
was  also  opened  by  him.  It  was  found  to  contain  the  bodies 
of  three  men,  who  had  clearly  suffered  violent  deaths — two  of 
them  had  been  decapitated,  and  the  third  had  evidently  been 
beaten  to  death  by  a  horrible  means  of  torture  sometimes  used 
— the  "  plumbatae  "  —leathern  or  metal  thongs  loaded  with 
lead  ;  one  of  these,  which  evidently  had  been  used  in  the 
death-scene  of  a  martyr,  was  found  in  a  crypt  of  this  cemetery. 
These  three  were  no  doubt  the  remains  of  SS.  Valerianus 
(the  patrician  husband  of  S.  Cecilia),  Tiburtius  his  brother,  and 
the  Roman  officer  Maximus,  whose  remains,  brought  no  doubt 
by  Pope  Paschal  I  from  the  Praetextatus  Cemetery  where  we 
know  they  had  been  interred,  were  deposited  by  him  in  the 
crypt  of  the  Church  of  S.  Cecilia  close  to  the  body  of  the 
famous  martyr  with  whom  they  were  so  closely  and  gloriously 

The  story  of  the  discovery  and  certain  identification  of  the 
original  sepulchral  chamber  of  S.  Cecilia  is  vividly  told  by 
De  Rossi  with  great  detail.  It  was  one  of  his  important 
"  finds."  With  the  tradition  before  him — with  the  clear 
references  in  the  pilgrim  traditions — the  great  archaeologist 
was  sure  that  somewhere  in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  the 
sepulchral  chamber  of  the  Popes  or  Bishops  of  Rome  of  the 

but  pure  tradition  can  be  alleged  here,  but  the  tradition  is  a  very  ancient 
one.  Wordsworth  writes  of  her  as 

"  rapt  Cecilia,  seraph-haunted  queen  of  harmony." 

Compare  too  references  in  Dryden,  "  Alexander's' Feast,"  and  Pope,  "  Ode  on 
S.  Cecilia."  Raffaelle  paints  her  as  wrapped  in  ecstasy  and  surrounded  by 
instruments  of  music. 

The  tradition  is  that  when  Valerian,  her  husband,  returned  from  baptism, 
he  found  her  singing  hymns  of  thanksgiving  for  his  conversion.  Angels,  it 
is  said,  descended  from  heaven  to  listen  to  her  sweet  voice. 

No  allusion,  however,  to  her  musical  power  is  made  in  the  Antiphone  sung 
at  her  Festival.  A  verse  of  the  appointed  anthem  runs  thus  : 

"  While  the  instruments  of  music  were  playing,  Cecilia  sang  unto  the 
Lord  and  said,  '  Let  my  heart  be  undefiled,  that  I  may  never  be  confounded.'  " 

In  one  of  the  chapels  of  the  great  Church  of  the  Oratory  in  London  there 
is  a  beautiful  replica  of  the  dead  Cecilia  of  Maderno. 

There  is  another  replica  of  Maderno's  figure  now  placed  in  the  niche  of  the 
recently-discovered  crypt  of  S.  Cecilia,  where  the  sarcophagus  which  contains 
the  body  of  the  saint  originally  was  placed. 


third  century,  must  be  sought  the  crypt  where  S.  Cecilia  lay 
for  more  than  six  centuries. 

First  he  discovered  that  adjoining  the  official  Papal  Crypt 
was  another  chamber,  evidently  of  considerable  size,  in  which 
a  luminare  l  had  been  constructed,  but  the  chamber  and  the 
luminare  were  choked  up  with  earth  and  ruins.  He  proceeded 
to  excavate  the  latter  ;  as  the  work  proceeded,  the  explorers 
in  the  neighbourhood  of  the  chamber  came  upon  the  remains 
of  paintings. 

Lower  down,  almost  on  the  level  of  the  chamber,  these 
paintings  became  more  numerous  and  more  distinct.  The 
work  of  digging  out  went  on  slowly  ;  more  paintings  had 
evidently  once  decorated  that  ruined  and  desolate  chamber 
of  death — one  of  them,  a  woman  richly  dressed,  obviously 
represented  S.  Cecilia.  Another  of  a  bishop  inscribed  with 
the  name  of  S.  Urbanus,  the  bishop  connected  with  the  story 
of  the  saint.  The  paintings  were  of  different  dates,  some  as 
late  as  the  seventh  century.  A  door  which  once  led  into  the 
Papal  Crypt  was  found  :  remains  of  much  and  elaborate 
decorative  work  were  plainly  discerned,  work  of  various  ages, 
belonging  some  of  it  to  the  fifth,  sixth,  and  seventh  centuries. 

In  one  of  the  walls  of  the  chamber  a  large  opening  had 
been  originally  constructed  to  receive  the  sarcophagus  of 
the  martyr. 

All  showed  clearly  that  this  had  once  been  a  very  famous 
historic  crypt,  the  resort  of  many  generations  of  pilgrims, 
and  its  situation  answered  exactly  to  what  we  read  in  the 
Pilgrim  Itineraries,  in  the  Liber  Pontificalis,  and  in  other 
ancient  authorities  as  the  situation  of  the  original  burying- 
place  of  S.  Cecilia.  The  subjects,  too,  of  the  dim  discoloured 
paintings  pointed  to  the  same  conclusion. 

In  the  immediate  neighbourhood  of  the  sepulchral  chamber 
De  Rossi  counted  some  twelve  or  thirteen  inscriptions  telling 
of  Christian  members  of  the  "  gens  Caecilia  "  who  had  been 
buried  there — all  testifying  to  the  fact  that  originally  this 

1  A  "  luminare  "  (plural  "  luminaria  ")  was  a  shaft  communicating  with  the 
surface  of  the  ground  wliich  admitted  light  and  air.  Many  of  these  were 
constructed  by  Pope  Damasus  in  the  fourth  century  for  the  sake  of  pilgrims 
visiting  the  lu'storic  crypts. 


portion  of  the  great  group  of  the  so-called  "  Callistus  "  Cata 
comb  was  the  property  of  the  noble  house  in  question,  and  that 
probably  at  an  early  date  it  had  been  made  over  to  the  Christian 
Church  in  Rome.  The  saint  and  martyr  therefore  had  been 
laid  amidst  the  graves  of  other  members  of  her  family.1 

In  the  chain  of  testimony  which  has  been  brought  together 
one  link  seems  to  call  for  an  elucidation.  How  is  it  that 
Pope  Paschal  i  failed  at  first  to  discover  the  sepulchral 
chamber  of  S.  Cecilia,  considering  it  lay  so  close  to  the  famous 
Papal  Crypt,  and  in  fact  communicated  with  it  ?  The  answer  is 
that  no  doubt  at  some  time  previous  to  his  research  the  crypt 
of  S.  Cecilia  had  certainly  been  "  walled  up/'  "  earthed  up," 
or  otherwise  concealed  to  protect  this  revered  sanctuary  from 
the  prying  eyes  and  sacrilegious  hands  of  Lombards  and  other 
barbarian  raiders.  It  must  be  remembered  that  for  centuries 
the  tomb  of  S.  Cecilia  had  been  one  of  the  principal  objects  of 
veneration  in  this  great  cemetery.  Signs  of  this  later  work 
of  concealment  were  also  discovered  by  De  Rossi. 

De  Rossi,  in  his  summing  up,  comes  to  the  conclusion 
that  no  doubt  whatever  rests  upon  the  identification  of  the 
original  burying-place  of  S.  Cecilia,  and  that  the  sepulchral 
chamber  discovered  by  him  adjoining  the  Papal  Crypt  was 
the  spot  where  her  sarcophagus  lay  for  centuries — the  actual 
chamber  which  was  subsequently  adorned  and  made  accessible 
by  Pope  Damasus  ;  which  was  further  decorated  by  several  of 
his  successors  in  the  papacy  ;  and  which  was  visited  and 
venerated  by  successive  generations  of  pilgrims  from  all 

In  the  ninth  century  the  sarcophagus  containing  the  sacred 
remains  was  translated  as  we  have  seen  by  Pope  Paschal  I, 
and  brought  to  the  ancient  Basilica  of  S.  Cecilia  in  the 
Trastevere,  where  it  has  rested  securely  ever  since.  In  the 
year  1699  it  was  seen  and  opened  and  its  precious  contents 
inspected  by  Pope  Clement  vm,  by  Cardinal  Sfondrati,  by 
Cardinal  Baronius,  by  Bosio  and  others,  as  we  have  related. 

1  In  support  of  this  conclusion,  above  ground,  over  this  area  of  the  great 
"Callistus"  Cemetery,  important  Columbaria  have  been  found  belonging  to 
the  "  gens  Caecilia."  Thus  long  before  S.  Cecilia's  time  the  spot  had  been 
evidently  the  burying-place  of  the  illustrious  house  to  which  she  belonged. 


After  the  translation  in  the  ninth  century,  the  original 
crypt,  in  common  with  so  many  of  the  catacomb  sanctuaries, 
was  deserted  and  allowed  to  go  to  ruin — utterly  forgotten 
until  De  Rossi  rediscovered  it  and  reconstructed  its  wonderful 

Writing  in  the  earlier  years  of  the  twentieth  century, 
Marucchi,  the  follower  and  pupil  of  De  Rossi,  in  his  latest  work 
on  the  Catacombs,  reviews  and  fully  endorses  the  conclusions 
of  his  great  master  on  the  question  of  the  tradition  of  S.  Cecilia's 

What  we  stated  at  the  beginning  of  this  little  study  is  surely 
amply  verified.  S.  Cecilia  and  her  story  no  longer  belong 
to  mere  vague  and  ancient  tradition,  but  live  in  the  pages  oi 
scientific  history. 


We  will  cite  another  example,  and  a  yet  more  striking  one,  of 
the  light  thrown  by  the  witness  of  the  catacombs  on  important 
questions  which  have  been  gravely  disputed,  in  connection 
with  the  history  of  the  very  early  years  of  Christianity. 

Ecclesiastical  historians  of  the  highest  rank  have  gravely 
doubted  the  truth  of  the  story  of  the  martyrdom  of  S.  Felicitas 
and  her  seven  sons  l  in  the  days  of  the  Emperor  Marcus  about 
the  middle  of  the  second  century.  The  splendid  constancy  in 
the  faith  of  the  mother  and  of  her  hero  sons,  in  the  opinion  of 
these  grave  and  competent  critics  was  a  recital  almost  entirely 
copied  from  the  record  of  the  Maccabean  mother  and  her 
seven  brave  sons,  and  so  the  Passion  of  S.  Felicitas  and  her 
sons  has  been  generally  consigned  to  the  shelf  of  early  legendary 
Christian  history  ;  few  historians  would  venture  to  quote  as 
genuine  this  pathetic  and  inspiring  chapter  of  the  persecution 
of  the  Emperor  Marcus.  It  is  regarded  as  a  piece  of  literature, 
devised  in  the  sixth  century  or  even  later,  and  quite  outside 
serious  history. 

But  recent  investigations  in  the  great  subterranean  city 
of  the  Roman  dead  have  completely  changed  this  commonly 
held  view,  and  the  episode  in  question  must  now  take  its 
place  among  the  acknowledged  Christian  records  of  the 

1  The  eldest  of  the  "  seven  "  was  the  well-known  S.  Januarius. 


middle  of  the  second  century.  She  belonged  to  the  ranks 
of  the  great  ladies  of  Rome  ;  her  husband,  of  whom  we  know 
nothing,  was  dead,  but  Felicitas  and  her  sons  were  well  known 
in  the  Christian  community  of  the  capital,  where  she  was 
distinguished  for  her  earnest  and  devoted  piety. 

Her  high  rank  gave  her  considerable  influence,  and  she 
was  in  consequence  dreaded  by  the  pagan  pontiffs.  These 
high  officials,  aware  of  the  Emperor  Marcus  Antoninus' 
hostility  to  the  Christians,  laid  an  information  against  the 
noble  Christian  lady  as  belonging  to  the  unlawful  religion. 
They  represented  her  as  stirring  up  the  wrath  of  the  immortal 
gods  by  her  powerful  influence  among  the  people.  Marcus 
at  once  directed  the  Prefect  of  the  city,  Publius,  to  see  that 
Felicitas  and  her  sons  sacrificed  in  public  to  the  offended 
deities.  This  was  in  the  year  of  grace  162. 

The  "  Acts  of  the  Passion,"  from  which  we  are  quoting 
here,  no  doubt  with  very  little  change  represent  the  official 
notes  or  proces-verbal  of  the  interrogatory  at  the  trial. 

The  Prefect  Publius  at  first  with  great  gentleness  urged 
her  to  sacrifice,  and  then  finding  her  obdurate,  threatened 
her  with  a  public  execution. 

Finding  persuasion  and  threats  of  no  avail,  Publius  urged 
her,  "  If  she  found  it  pleasant  to  die,  at  least  to  let  her  sons 
live."  Felicitas  replied  that  they  would  most  certainly  live 
if  they  refused  to  sacrifice  to  idols,  but  if  they  did  sacrifice, 
they  would  surely  die — eternally. 

The  public  trial  subsequently  took  place  in  the  open 
Forum  ;  again  the  Roman  magistrate  urged  the  mother  to 
be  pitiful  to  her  sons,  still  in  the  flower  of  their  youth,  but 
the  brave  confessor,  turning  to  the  young  men,  told  them  to 
look  up  to  heaven — there  Christ  with  His  saints  was  waiting 
for  them  :  "  Fight,"  she  said,  "  my  sons,  the  good  fight  for 
your  souls." 

The  young  men  in  turn  were  placed  before  him.  The 
Prefect  in  the  name  of  the  Emperor  offered  them  each  a 
splendid  guerdon  and  coveted  privileges  at  the  Imperial  court 
if  they  would  only  consent  to  sacrifice  publicly  to  the  gods 
of  Rome.  One  and  all  of  the  seven  refused,  preferring  to  die 
with  their  noble  mother,  choosing  the  other  guerdon,  the 


alternative  guerdon  offered  in  the  name  of  the  great  Emperor, 
the  fearful  and  shameful  deaths  to  which  an  openly  professing 
Christian  in  the  days  of  Marcus  was  condemned  by  the  stern 
Roman  law. 

The  interrogatory  and  the  noble  answers  of  mother  and 
sons  as  contained  in  the  "  Acts  of  the  Passion  of  S.  Felicitas," 
are  at  once  a  stirring  and  pathetic  recital. 

The  final  condemnation  naturally  followed.  The  death  sen 
tences  were  confirmed  by  the  Emperor,  and  sternly  carried  out. 

Felicitas  and  her  seven  sons  suffered  martyrdom,1  and 
through  pain  and  agony  passed  to  their  rest  and  bliss  in  the 
Paradise  of  their  adored  Master  Christ. 

Around  these  "  Acts  "  a  continual  war  of  criticism  has 
been  waged  :  the  question  has  by  no  means  as  yet  been 
positively  decided. 

Tillemont  hesitatingly  expresses  an  opinion  that  they 
have  not  all  the  characteristics  of  genuine  "  Acts."  Bishop 
Lightfoot  is  yet  more  positive  in  his  view  that  they  are  not 
authentic.  Aube  repeats  a  similar  judgment.  On  the 
other  hand,  De  Rossi,  Borghesi,  and  Doulcet  accept  them  as 
genuine.  But  all  are  agreed  that  they  are  very  ancient. 
The  interrogatory  portion  is  no  doubt  a  verbatim  extract 
from  the  original  proces-verbal. 

The  piece  appears  to  have  been  originally  largely  written 
in  Greek,  but  Gregory  the  Great,  who  refers  to  it,  speaks  of 
another  and  better  text  which  we  do  not  possess.  One 
striking  indication  of  its  great  antiquity  is  that  no  mention 
is  made  of  the  tombs  of  the  martyrs.  Had  these  "Acts" 
dated  even  from  the  fifth  century  this  would  not  have 
been  omitted,  for  in  the  fifth  century  the  martyrdoms  had 
obtained  great  celebrity. 

A  very  early  mention  of  these  tombs,  however,  we  find 
in  the  so-called  "  Liberian  "  or  "  Philocalian "  Catalogue, 

1  The  manner  of  death  of  this  illustrious  family  of  Christian  martyrs  was 
as  follows,  as  far  as  we  can  gather  from  the  concise  notices  in  the  "  Acts": 

Januarius,  the  eldest,  was  beaten  to  death  by  whips  loaded  with  lead. 

The  second  and  third  brothers  apparently  met  with  the  same  doom. 

The  fourth  was  thrown  down  from  a  height,  and  so  died. 

The  three  remaining  brothers  and  their  mother  Felicitas  were  dealt  with 
more  mercifully  and  were  decapitated. 


which  was  partly  composed  or  put  together  not  later  than 
the  year  of  grace  334.  The  alternative  name  of  the  Catalogue 
is  derived  from  Filocalus,  the  famous  calligrapher  of  Pope 
Damasus,  who  most  probably  was  the  compiler  of  the  work, 
which  consists  of  several  tracts  chronological  and  topographical 
of  the  highest  interest,  some  originally  doubtless  composed 
at  a  very  early  date.  It  contains,  among  other  pieces,  a 
Catalogue  of  Roman  Bishops,  ending  writh  Liberius,  and  a 
piece  termed  "  Depositio  Martyrum,"  in  which  the  bury  ing- 
places  of  the  seven  sons  of  Felicitas  are  carefully  set  out. 
This  ancient  memorandum  has  been  of  the  greatest  assistance 
to  De  Rossi  and  Marucchi  in  their  identification  of  the  original 
graves  of  the  "  seven." 

When  De  Rossi  had  penetrated  into  the  cemetery  of 
Prsetextatus  on  the  Appian  Way,  he  came  upon  what  was 
evidently  a  highly  decorated  chamber,  once  lined  with  marble, 
and  carefully  built  and  ornamented.  It  was,  he  saw,  an 
historic  crypt  of  the  highest  interest.  The  vault  of  the 
chamber  was  painted,  and  the  fresco  decorations  were  still  fairly 
preserved.  The  paintings  represented  garlands  of  vines  and 
laurels  and  roses,  executed  with  great  taste  and  care  ;  the 
style  and  execution  belonged  to  work  which  must  be  dated 
not  later  than  the  second  century.  Below  the  beautifully 
decorated  vault  was  a  long  fresco  painting  of  the  Good 
Shepherd  with  sheep  ;  one  sheep  was  on  his  shoulders.  This 
painting  has  been  sadly  interfered  with  by  a  loculus,  or  grave, 
of  later  date,  probably  of  the  fourth  or  fifth  century  ;  on 
the  loculus  in  question  could  still  be  read  the  following  little 
inscription — perfect  save  for  the  first  few  letters  : 

.    .    .    MARTYRES 

Some  sixth-century  Christians,  anxious  to  lay  their  beloved 
dead  close  to  the  martyrs,  had  caused  the  wall  of  the  chamber 
to  be  cut  away,  for  the  reception  of  the  body,  regardless  of 
the  painting,  and  then  while  the  plaster  was  still  fresh  had  cut 
these  words  of  prayer,  which  may  be  translated,  "  May 
Januarius,  Agatopus,1  and  Felicissimus refresh  (the  soul  of  .  .  .)." 

1  Agapitus  is  so  spelt  in  the  rough  grafftte  here  referred  to. 


Agatopus  and  Felicissimus  were  two  of  the  deacons  of  Pope 
Sixtus  n,  who  had  (probably  in  the  same  catacomb)  suffered 
martyrdom,  A.D.  258.  Their  sepulchral  chambers  were  subse 
quently  identified. 

The  question  at  once  presented  itself  to  De  Rossi — was 
not  this  chamber  ornamented  with  paintings  clearly  of  the 
second  century,  the  crypt  where  S.  Januarius  had  been  laid  ? 
All  doubt  on  this  point  was  subsequently  cleared  up,  for 
eventually  in  many  fragments  the  original  inscription  which 
Pope  Damasus  had  caused  to  be  placed  over  the  door  or  near 
the  altar  was  found.  The  inscription  ran  thus  : 



DAMASUS    '    EPISCOP    ' 

The  body  of  S.  Felicitas  the  mother  was  laid  in  the  cemetery 
in  the  Via  Salaria  Nova  which  bears  her  name.  After  the  Peace 
of  the  Church  towards  the  end  of  the  first  quarter  of  the  fourth 
century,  a  little  basilica  was  erected  over  the  spot  in  the 
catacomb  in  question  where  the  remains  of  the  martyred 
mother  had  been  deposited.  As  late  as  A.D.  1884,  while  digging 
the  foundations  of  a  house,  the  little  basilica  was  discovered — 
in  Marucchi's  words,  "  on  y  reconnut  aussitot  le  tombeau  de  Ste 
FeliciteY'  Paintings  of  the  mother  and  her  sons  adorn  the 
walls.  Beneath  the  basilica  was  a  crypt  in  which  trie  Salzburg 
Itinerary  tells  us  lay  her  youngest  son  S.  Silanus  :  the  words 
of  this  Pilgrim  Itinerary  run  thus  :  "  Ilia  pausat  in  ecclesia 
sursum  et  films  ejus  sub  terra  deorsum." 

At  the  end  of  the  eighth  century  Pope  Leo  in  translated 
the  remains  of  the  mother  and  son  to  the  Church  of  S.  Suzanna, 
near  the  Baths  of  Diocletian,  where  they  still  rest. 

In  the  Philocalian  or  Liberian  Calendar,  A.D.  circa  334,  an 
entry  appears  under  the  heading  of  "  Depositio  Martyrum," 
telling  how  two  more  of  the  seven  martyred  sons  of  Felicitas 
were  buried  in  the  Cemetery  of  S.  Priscilla,  namely,  SS.  Felix 
and  Philip. 

After  the  Peace  of  the  Church,  the  basilica  subsequently 
known  as  S.  Sylvester  was  erected  over  a  portion  of  the  great 


Priscilla  Cemetery,  and  many  of  the  bodies  of  the  more  famous 
martyrs  were  brought  up  from  the  subterranean  galleries  and 
chambers  and  buried  in  conspicuous  places  in  the  new  Basilica 
of  S.  Sylvester  ;  amongst  these  were  the  remains  of  the  two 
sons  of  Felicitas,  SS.  Felix  and  Philip.  This  is  carefully 
described  in  the  Pilgrim  Itineraries  or  Guides.  These  two 
well-known  martyrs  were  deposited  under  the  high  altar  of 
S.  Sylvester.  In  the  second  Salzburg  Itinerary,  known  as 
"  De  locis  SS.  Martyrum,"  they  are  thus  specially  mentioned  : 
"  S.  Felicis  [sic]  unus  de  septem  et  S.  Philippus  unus  de 
septem,"  and  in  William  of  Malmesbury,  copying  from  a  much 
older  Itinerary,  we  read,  "  Basilica  S.  Silvester  ubi  jacet 
marmoreo  tumulo  co-opertus  .  .  .  Martyres  .  .  .  Philippus  et 
Felix."  Marucchi  thinks  he  can  point  out  the  tomb  in  the 
subterranean  crypt  where  the  two  originally  were  laid. 

The  three  remaining  sons  of  Felicitas,  namely,  SS.  Alex 
ander,  Vitalis,  and  Martialis,  were  interred  in  the  cemetery  of 
the  Jordani  on  the  Via  Salaria  Nova.  This  cemetery,  owing  to 
its  state  of  ruin  and  the  difficulty  of  pursuing  the  excavating 
work,  has  only  been  very  partially  explored  ;  but  Marucchi 
believes  he  has  found  a  broken  inscription  referring  to  "  Alex 
ander,  one  of  the  seven  brothers."  It  is  probable  that  other 
traces  of  the  loculi  of  these  three  will  come  to  light  when  this 
large  but  comparatively  little  known  catacomb,  which  is  in  a 
very  ruinous  and  desolate  condition,  is  carefully  examined  : 
at  present  large  portions  of  it  are  quite  inaccessible. 

The  second  Salzburg  Itinerary  "  De  locis  SS.  Martyrum  " 
specially  guides  the  pilgrim  to  tombs  of  these  three  thus  : 
"  propeque  ibi  "  (alluding  to  the  Basilica  of  S.  Chrysanthus 
and  Daria  built  over  a  portion  of  the  Ccemeterium  Jordani) 
"  S.  Alexander  et  S.  Vitalis,  sanctusque  Martialis  qui  sunt  tres 
de  septem  filiis  Felicitatis  .  .  .  jacent."  William  of  Malmes 
bury  in  his  transcript  of  an  ancient  Itinerary  also  mentions 
them,  as  do  other  of  the  Pilgrim  Guides. 

In  the  celebrated  "  Monza "  Catalogue  and  in  the 
"  Pittacia,"  or  small  labels,  belonging  to  the  phials  which 
contained  a  little  of  the  sacred  oils  which  were  burnt  before 
the  tombs  of  the  more  eminent  confessors  and  martyrs  (the 
phials  of  oils  which  were  sent  by  Pope  Gregory  the  Great 


(A.D.  590-604)  to  Theodelinda  the  Lombard  Queen),  the 
names  of  Felicitas  and  six  of  her  martyred  sons  occur. 

In  the  "  Pittacia  "  or  labels  they  are  grouped  topographic 
ally  together,  as  we  have  given  them  above,  Felicitas'  being 
in  a  separate  label,  Januarius  also  in  a  separate  label,  then  the 
two  groups  together  as  above,  the  "  two  "  and  the  "  three." 
There  is  a  reason  for  S.  Silanus,  who  was  buried  with  his 
mother  in  the  cemetery  named  after  her,  being  absent  from 
this  "  Monza  "  Catalogue,  and  from  the  labels  on  the  phials 
of  oil.  His  body,  as  the  "  Liberian  "  Catalogue  informs  us, 
was  missing  for  a  season  from  its  original  loculus,  it  having 
been  stolen  away,  but  was  subsequently  recovered  and 

The  suspicion  of  the  legendary  character  of  the  story  of  th-3 
martyrdom  of  S.  Felicitas  and  her  seven  sons  is  largely  traceabl  3 
to  the  conclusions  of  some  critical  scholars  (by  no  means  of  all) 
that  the  "  Acts  of  S.  Felicitas  "  and  her  sons  are  not  authentic, 
that  is,  that  they  are  not  a  contemporary  piece,  but  were 
compiled  at  a  somewhat  later  and  uncertain  date.  It  is,  how 
ever,  by  the  most  trustworthy  of  these  critics  conceded  that 
they  are  very  ancient. 

But  granting  these  conclusions  are  accurate  and  that  the 
"  Acts,"  in  the  strict  sense  of  the  word,  are  not  authentic,  the 
circumstances  of  the  Passion  and  the  martyrdom  of  the  mother 
and  her  heroic  sons  rest  on  other  authorities  outside  and  quite 
independent  of  the  "  Acts  "—authorities  of  the  highest  value 
and  absolutely  unquestioned. 

Of  these  the  testimony  of  the  catacomb  tombs  of  the  mother 
and  her  seven  sons,  a  somewhat  novel  witness,  is  the  one  we 
have  especially  brought  forward  here. 

It  is  an  evidence  unchangeable,  and  which  admits  of  no 
subsequent  revision  or  addition.  In  its  special  department 
it  is  perhaps  the  strongest  piece  of  testimony  that  can  be 
brought  forward,  and  much  of  this  strange  unexpected  witness 
was  unknown  until  quite  lately — until  these  forgotten  ceme 
teries  were  partially  explored  by  competent  and  indefatigable 
scholars  of  our  own  day  and  time. 

There  are,  besides,  other  important  "pieces,"  which  for 
want  of  space  have  not  been  quoted  here,  bearing  on  the  same 


subject,  namely,  on  the  historical  existence  of  S.  Felicitas  and 
her  seven  sons,  and  their  brave  witness  and  consequent 
martyrdom  in  the  days  of  the  Emperor  Marcus  Antonius, 
such  as,  inscriptions  of  Pope  Damasus,  a  homily  in  honour 
of  S.  Felicitas  by  Pope  Gregory  the  Great,  and  a  laudatory 
notice  by  S.  Peter  Chrysologus,  Archbishop  of  Ravenna,  A.D. 
433-54,  etc. 



IN    this    section  we  will  give  at  some  length  what  these 
(same)   catacombs  tell  us   of  the  thoughts  of  the  early 
Christian  congregations  on  some  of  the  more  important 
problems  dealing  with  death  and  with  the  life  beyond  the 
grave,  and  incidentally  with  the  early  Christian  view  on  the 
question  of  the  communion  of  saints. 

The  scanty  remains  of  the  literature  of  this  early  period, 
as  we  have  already  hinted,  valuable  though  they  are,  partake 
rather  of  the  nature  of  scholars'  researches  and  conclusions. 
What  we  find  painted  and  graved  on  the  million  graves  of 
this  vast  subterranean  God's  Acre  tells  us  in  simple  popular 
language  exactly  what  the  Christian  folk,  who  lived  and 
worked  and  suffered  in  the  two  centuries  which  followed  the- 
martyrdom  of  SS.  Peter  and  Paul,  thought  and  felt  on  these 
momentous  points. 

The  graves  in  this  silent  city,  perhaps  numbering  some 
three,  four,  or  even  five  millions,  belong  to  all  ages,  to  every 
rank  and  order.  There  are  crypts  containing  the  remains  of 
members  of  the  Imperial  family,  of  men  and  women  of  sena 
torial  and  of  the  most  exalted  rank  among  the  proud  patrician 
houses.  There  are  graves  of  merchants  and  traders,  of  the 
very  rich,  of  the  very  poor  ;  there  are  innumerable  graves 
of  freedmen,  of  the  vast  class  too  of  the  sad-eyed  slave. 

Here,  too,  are  not  a  few  tombs  of  men  and  women  who 
gave  up  all,  even  dear  life,  for  the  Name's  sake,  and  who, 
because  they  professed  unswerving  faith  in  the  divine  Son  of 



God,  through  pain  and  agony  passed  to  their  rest  in  the 
Paradise  of  God. 

Some  of  the  ruined  graves  were  once  strikingly  adorned  ; 
very  many  of  them  being  made  of  costly  marbles  and 
beautifully  decorated,  while  around  these  sepulchral  memorials 
of  the  great  and  wealthy  are  found  numberless  graves  roughly 
though  lovingly  fashioned. 

Of  the  epitaphs  and  inscriptions  carved  and  painted  on 
these  graves,  some  are  exquisitely  worked,  evidently  by 
professional  artists.  Many  more,  however,  were  rudely  and 
hurriedly  painted  or  scratched  on  the  plaster  or  stone  tablet 
which  closed  in  the  shelf  in  the  wall  in  which  the  dead  was 

The  inscriptions  are  for  the  most  part  in  Latin,  but  in  the 
first  and  in  much  of  the  second  century  the  words  are  often 
in  Greek.  In  some  instances  the  two  languages  are  curiously 
mingled,  the  epitaph  beginning  in  one  tongue  and  ending  in 
another :  occasionally  the  Latin  words  are  written  in  Greek 

Various  corrupt  ways  of  spelling  are  not  unusual,  the 
ordinary  rules  of  grammar  are  not  unfrequently  broken. 
Indeed,  as  is  observable  in  some  of  the  Latin  poetry  of  the 
early  Christian  centuries  where  the  rules  of  classical  prosody 
are  ignored,  so  here  in  the  prose  used  by  the  children  of  the 
people  a  similar  disregard  of  language  and  spelling  is  ob 
servable.  It  was  the  beginning  of  the  popular  patois  which 
eventually  crystallized  into  modern  Italian. 

There  is  a  curious  and  interesting  difference  between  the 
epitaphs  of  the  catacombs  written  when  Christianity  was  a 
proscribed  religion,  when  those  who  embraced  it  were  liable 
to  more  or  less  bitter  persecution,  and  the  epitaphs  of  the 
latter  years  of  the  fourth  as  of  the  following  centuries.  Men 
wrote  in  those  first  three  Christian  centuries  in  the  dark  and 
lonely  corridors  and  chambers  where  their  loved  dead  were 
laid,  not  for  any  human  eye  to  read,  save  their  own  when 
they  visited  that  sacred  God's  Acre, — just  a  name — or  an 
emblem  of  their  dearest  hopes,  a  little  picture  of  the  Good 
Shepherd  and  His  sheep,  a  word  or  two  of  sure  hope  and 
joyous  confidence  in  the  eternal  future — and  nothing  more. 


Very  short,  very  simple,  very  touching  are  these  early  Christian 
epitaphs.  The  great  and  noble  set  out  no  pompous  statement 
of  the  rank  and  position  of  their  dead  :  we  read  little  of  the 
piety  and  goodness  of  the  many  saintly  ones  whose  remains 
rested  in  those  long  silent  corridors. 

But  in  the  cemeteries  (mostly  above  ground)  of  the  last 
years  of  the  fourth  and  in  the  following  centuries,  when  the 
Church  enjoyed  peace,  and  when  a  different  spirit  brooded  over 
the  works  and  days  of  Christians,  we  begin  to  meet  with  those 
foolish  tasteless  phrases  which  as  time  went  on  became  more 
and  more  in  fashion,  telling  of  the  dead  one's  rank  and  position, 
of  the  goodness  and  holiness  and  devotion  of  the  deceased. 

Dean  Stanley  quotes  an  epitaph  in  the  cloisters  of  his 
loved  Abbey  of  Westminster,  which  he  says  reminded  him 
of  the  catacomb  inscriptions  in  a  way  which  none  other  of 
the  pompous  and  elaborate  epitaphs  in  that  noble  English 
home  of  the  great  dead  had  done.  It  is  of  a  little  girl,  and 
runs  thus  : 

"  Jane  Lister  •  deare  childe." 

The  first  and  most  prominent  feature  in  the  life  of  the 
Christians  of  the  first  three  centuries  which  the  inscriptions 
of  the  catacombs  make  clear  to  us  was  their  intense  con 
viction  of  the  reality  of  the  future  life. 

The  epitaphs  speak  of  the  dead  as  though  they  wrere  still 
living.  They  talk  to  the  dead.  They  felt  that  there  was  a 
communion  still  existing  with  them — between  them  and  the 
survivors — a  communion  carried  on  under  new  conditions, 
and  finding  its  consolation  in  incessant  mutual  prayer. 

They  were  assured  that  the  soul  of  the  departed  was  united 
with  the  saints — that  it  was  with  God,  and  in  the  enjoyment 
of  peace,  happiness,  rest ;  so  often  the  little  epitaph  breathes 
a  humble  and  loving  prayer  that  they,  the  survivors,  might 
soon  be  admitted  to  a  participation  in  these  blessings.  Some 
times  the  survivors  invoked  the  help  of  the  prayers  of  the 
departed,  since  they  knew  that  the  soul  of  the  departed  lived 
in  God  and  with  God  ;  they  thought  that  the  prayers  of  a 
soul  in  the  presence  of  God  would  be  a  help — must  be  a  help- 
to  those  whose  time  of  trial  was  not  yet  ended. 


Dr.  Northcote  well  summarizes  all  this  :  "  In  a  word, 
they  realized  most  intensely  that  all  the  faithful,  whether  in 
the  body  or  out  of  the  body,  were  still  living  members  of  one 
mystical  body,  the  body  of  Christ ;  that  they  formed  one 
great  family,  knit  together  in  the  closest  bonds  of  love  ;  and 
that  this  love,  stronger  than  death,  had  its  proper  work  and 
happiness  in  prayer — prayer  of  the  survivors  for  those  who 
had  gone  before,  prayer  of  the  blessed  for  those  who  were 
left  behind."  (Epitaphs  of  the  Catacombs,  chap,  v.) 

This  deeply  rooted  belief  in  the  life  beyond  the  grave  ;  this 
intense  conviction  that  the  division  between  this  life  and  the 
life  beyond  the  grave  does  not  sever  the  claim  of  affection  and 
love,  never  interrupt — no,  not  for  an  hour — the  interchange 
of  loving  offices. 

We  will  quote  a  very  few  of  the  older  epitaphs  painted 
or  graved  upon  the  marble  or  stone  tablet  or  on  the  thick 
plaster-work  which  closed  in  the  shelf  in  which  the  dead  were 

On  some  of  these  tablets  we  read  simply  the  name  of  the 
dead  ;  on  others  the  name  is  accompanied  with  a  Christian 
emblem,  such  as  an  anchor,  the  mystic  fish,  the  ix&v<;— 
each  letter  of  which  refers  closely  to  the  Saviour  :  (i)  Jesus, 
(%)  Christ,  (6}  God,  (v)  the  Son,  (?)  the  Saviour ;  the  palm 
branch,  the  token  of  the  victory  over  death  ;  the  dove,  symbol 
of  a  Christian  soul,  occasionally  of  the  Holy  Ghost ;  this  dove 
or  bird  was  a  favourite  emblem  of  the  soul,  the  idea  being  that 
the  soul  resembled  a  bird  of  passage  dwelling  for  a'season  here 
and  then  flying  away  beyond  the  seas  to  a  brighter,  serener 
home.  Very  often  we  come  upon  the  figure  of  the  Good 
Shepherd,  sometimes  with  a  lamb  in  His  arms. 


De  Rossi  tells  us  how  he  had  studied  over  fifteen  thousand 
of  these  epitaphs,  and  that  every  year  about  five  hundred 
more  were  deciphered.  We  will  copy  a  very  few  of  these  : 

"  To  dear  Cyriacus — sweetest  son — Mayest  thou  live  in 
the  Holy  Spirit/' 


"  Matronata — who  lived  a  year  and  32  days — Pray   for 

thy  parents/5 

"  Bolosa — may  God  refresh  thee — In  Christ." 
"  Sweet  Faustina — mayest  thou  live  in  God." 
"  Peace  to  thy  soul,  Oxycholis." 
"  Agape,  thou  shalt  live  for  ever." 
"  Filumena — thy  spirit  is  in  peace." 
"  Baccis,  sweet  soul  in  the  peace  of  the  Lord,  a  virgin— 

Her  father  to  his  sweetest  daughter." 
"  Victorina  is  in  Peace  and  in  Christ." 
"  Amerinus  to  his  dearest  wife  Rufina  ;  may  God  refresh 

thy  spirit." 
"  His  parents  made  this  for  their  good  and  sweetest  son 

Felix  .  .  .  May  Christ  receive  thee  in  peace." 
"  Porcella  sleeps  here  in  peace." 
"  Severa  ;  mayest  thou  live  in  God." 
"  Farewell,  my  dear  one,  in  peace  with  the  Holy  souls  ; 

Farewell  in  Christ." 

Never  a  word  of  sorrow  on  these  graves  of  the  dead — never 
a  word  of  repining — never  a  regret  that  they  have  been  taken 
away.  Only  just  a  few  words  telling  of  their  sure  hope  for 
their  dear  ones,  and  a  prayer  to  God,  Christ,  and  the  Holy 
Spirit  to  keep  them  in  their  loving  guardianship. 

We  must  dwell  a  little  on  the  question  of  the  testimony 
which  these  epitaphs  of  the  first  age  of  Christianity  bear  on 
the  practice  of  the  living  asking  for  the  help  of  those  who  had 
passed  within  the  veil.  There  is  no  doubt  but  that  at  a  later 
period  and  all  through  the  Middle  Ages  this  was  the  practice, 
and  it  has  led  to  results  which  true  theologians  generally 
deplore.  The  question  here  is — How  far  was  this  the  practice 
of  the  Church  of  the  first  days  ? 

Now  there  is  no  doubt  whatever  but  that  the  mediaeval 
Church  from  very  early  times  taught  that  the  prayers  of  great 
saints  possessed  a  peculiar  efficacy,  and  in  the  uneducated 
mind  this  shaded  into  something  like  a  belief  that  these  saints 
possessed  some  actual  power  of  themselves  to  interfere  in  and 
to  influence  human  affairs.  We  shall  presently  quote  some  of 
S.  Augustine's  views  here. 


In  the  case,  however,  of  the  early  Christians  whose  thoughts 
are  reflected  in  their  great  City  of  the  Dead,  the  case  was  very 
different.  They  believed  so  intensely  in  the  continuance  of 
life  after  death  that  they  maintained  their  communion  with  the 
departed  by  an  interchange  of  prayers. 

S.  Cyprian,  a  great  theologian  and  a  cautious  teacher, 
believed  that  the  blessed  dead  were  anxious  for  those  whom 
they  had  left  behind.  Now,  granting  that  this  was  the  common 
feeling  of  Christians  in  respect  to  their  dear  dead  ones  whom 
they  believed  were  dwelling  close  to  God  and  His  Christ,  we 
can  well  conceive  how  natural  it  was  for  them  to  ask  them  for 
their  prayers — for  were  they  not  dwelling  close  to  God  and  His 
Christ  to  Whom  their  prayers  must  be  addressed  ?  Thus  in 
the  Church  of  the  first  two  hundred  and  fifty  years  this  com 
munion,  largely  made  up  of  the  constant  interchange  of  prayer 
between  the  living  and  the  dead,  rested  on  this  family  and 
friendship  bond,  and  on  no  other.  The  formal  invocation 
of  saint  and  martyr  as  of  some  specially  powerful  soul  belongs 
to  a  later  date.  It  was  not  the  teaching,  certainly  not  the 
general  teaching,  of  the  Church  of  the  catacombs. 

But  even  in  the  catacombs  it  appears  that  very  soon  the 
custom  crept  in  of  crowding  round  the  grave  of  some  famous 
martyr,  as  though  some  special  virtue  belonged  to  the  spot 
where  the  saint's  remains  had  been  deposited  ;  and  the  little 
chamber  where  the  hallowed  remains  of  a  hero  or  heroine  of 
the  faith  lay,  was  soon  filled  with  graves — graves  excavated 
utterly  without  any  regard  to  the  paintings  or  decorations 
\vhich  adorned  the  chamber  and  its  original  tomb,  paintings 
and  decorations  which  were  ruthlessly  cut  away  to  make 
room  for  new  loculi  where  the  dead  might  rest  close  to  the 
remains  of  the  saint  or  martyr.1 

The  point,  however,  which  especially  concerns  us  here  is 
the  testimony,  repeated  many  thousand  times,  which  the 

1  S.  Augustine  in  the  first  quarter  of  the  fifth  century,  circa  A.D.  421,  in 
reply  to  a  question  addressed  to  him  by  S.  Paulinus  of  Nola,  discusses  the 
question  whether  or  not  is  it  advantageous  to  be  buried  close  to  the  grave 
of  a  saint  ?  The  little  work  of  Augustine,  however,  broadens  out  into  points 
connected  with  the  doctrine  of  "  Invocation  of  Saints."  A  resume  of  some  of 
S.  Augustine's  thoughts  and  arguments  will  be  found  in  a  short  Appendix 
to  this  chapter. 


catacombs  bear  to  the  perfect  confidence  of  the  early  Christians 
in  the  continuance  of  life  beyond  the  grave.  To  the  faithful 
dead — to  the  believers  in  Jesus  Christ — there  was  no  break 
caused  by  death,  for  them  life  went  on  as  it  had  done  aforetime  ; 
conscious  life  went  on  after  death,  only  under  different  and 
happier  conditions. 

To  appreciate  the  striking  change  in  the  conception  of 
death — the  most  important  event  in  the  life  of  man  on  earth — 
it  will  be  interesting  to  glance  at  the  testimony  supplied  in 
the  same  period  by  pagan  epitaphs.  A  very  brief  examination 
will  suffice  to  show  what  an  impassable  gulf  separated  the 
Christian  from  the  pagan  conception. 

What  at  once  catches  our  attention  in  any  study  of  pagan 
epitaphs  is  the  complete  want  of  any  hope  beyond  the  grave. 
All  the  elaborate  pagan  pictures  of  the  future  life  popularized 
in  Greek  circles  by  the  Homeric  poems,  and  in  Latin  society 
by  the  exquisite  verses  of  Vergil,  when  brought  face  to  face 
with  the  stern  reality  of  the  tomb  are  simply  blotted  out — are 
treated  as  purely  fables. 

Death,  in  these  pagan  epitaphs,  the  true  expressions  of 
popular  pagan  belief  in  the  first  three  centuries  of  the  Christian 
era,  is  ever  viewed  as  an  enemy  ;  is  described  as  an  everlasting 
sleep,  and  the  grave  is  represented  as  the  last  eternal  home. 

It  has  been  well  said  that  this  melancholy  idea  was  con 
veyed  in  the  quiet  sadness  of  ihat  one  word  "  Vale,"  or  in  the 
more  impassioned  repetition  of  it,  "  Vale,  Vale  dulcissima— 
semper  in  perpetuo  vale."  Farewell,  farewell,  sweetest  one— 
for  ever  farewell.  Now  and  again  a  favourite  pagan  formula 
was  summed  up  in  two  words—  "  fuisti ;  vale." 

Some  of  the  pagan  epitaphs  are  playfully  sarcastic,  as  : 
"  Ah,  weary  traveller,  however  far  you  may  walk,  you  must 
come  here  at  last."  Some  even  make  a  mock  at  death,  bidding 
others  enjoy  themselves  while  they  live.  "  Live  for  the 
present  hour,  drink  and  play,  for  you  are  sure  of  nothing, 
only  what  you  eat  and  drink  is  really  yours."  "  Fortune 
makes  many  promises  but  keeps  none  of  them  ;  live  then 
for  the  present  hour,  since  nothing  else  is  really  yours."  Some 
epitaphs  are  bitter :  "  I  lived  as  I  like,  but  I  don't  know  why 
I  died."  "  Here  it  is,  so  it  is,  nothing  else  could  be." 


Here  an  inscription  on  a  young  woman's  grave  mourns 
her  early  death  :  '  I  lift  up  my  hands  against  the  God  who 
took  me  away  at  the  age  of  twenty,  though  I  had  done  no 
harm."  A  father  thus  grieves  for  the  loss  of  his  child  :  "  The 
fates  judged  ill  when  they  robbed  me  of  you."  Father  and 
mother  often  write  themselves  down  as  most  wretched,  most 
unhappy  ("miserrimi-infelicissimi").  Sometimes  they  use  these 
sad  and  cheerless  terms  of  their  dead  children.  Mothers  now 
and  again  describe  themselves  as  "  left  to  tears  and  groans," 
or  as  "  condemned  to  perpetual  darkness  and  daily  sad 
lamentation."  Parents  lament  their  dead  child  thus  :  "  Our 
hope  was  in  our  boy  ;  now  all  is  ashes  and  mourning."  Fre 
quently  these  mourn  for  their  dead  children  as  follows : 
"They  have  died  without  having  deserved  it."  Another 
parent  bewails  the  child's  death  in  these  terms  :  "  Neither 
talent,  nor  amiability,  nor  loving  winning  ways,  have  been  of 
any  avail  to  prolong  the  child's  days  ;  in  spite  of  all  this,  he 
has  become  the  foul  prey  of  the  cruel  Pluto." 

On  very  many  indeed  of  pagan  tombs  undoubtedly  there 
is  evidence  of  much  love  and  deep  affection  for  the  departed, 
but  there  is  no  gleam  of  hope  of  reunion  or  of  happiness  in 
another  life  ;  indeed,  as  a  rule,  there  is  no  other  life  hinted 
at.  If  any  venture  to  look  beyond  the  grave — which  is 
rarely  the  case — all  beyond  the  grave  is  dark  and  sad  and 

The  following  words  put  into  the  mouth  of  a  dead  girl 
well  voice  this  general  feeling  :  "  Here  I  lie,  unhappy  girl, 
in  darkness."  '  Traveller,  curse  me  not  as  you  pass,"  moans 
another  inscription,  "  for  I  am  in  darkness  and  cannot  answer." 


The  wonderful  change  in  popular  feeling  as  shown  in  the 
Christian  epitaphs  when  contrasted  with  the  pagan  epitaphs 
of  the  same  period  is  indeed  startling  !  What  we  read  in  the 
Roman  City  of  the  Dead  tells  us  something  of  the  spirit  which 
dwelt  in  these  companies  of  believers  in  the  Name.  This 
something  is  sufficient  to  account  for  the  new  life  led  by  so 
many,  for  the  superhuman  courage  displayed  by  the  army  of 


martyrs  and  confessors,  for  the  ultimate  victory,  some  two 
hundred  years  later,  of  the  religion  of  Jesus. 

We  who  live  in  what  is  perhaps  the  evening  of  the  world's 
story — we  mark  the  glowing  words  of  the  New  Testament 
writings,  the  fervid  exhortations  and  noble  resolves  of  men  like 
Clement  of  Rome,  Ignatius,  and  Polycarp — the  saintly  teachings 
of  great  theologians  like  Irenaeus,  Tertullian,  and  Cyprian. 

And  as  we  read,  we  feel  that  these  writers  were  evidently 
intensely  persuaded  of  the  truth  of  such  sublime  and  soul- 
stirring  assertions  ;  we  know,  too,  that  these  writers  and 
teachers  lived  the  beautiful  life  they  taught, — that  they  died, 
many  of  them,  with  a  smile  on  their  lips  and  a  song  in 
their  hearts. 

But  what  of  the  People — the  common  folk,  the  ordinary 
everyday  citizen ;  the  slave  and  the  little  trader  of  the 
thousand  cities  of  the  Empire,  the  soldier  of  Rome,  and  the 
patrician  of  Rome — what  did  they  think  of  all  this  ? — these 
new  strange  words,  these  sunlit  hopes,  these  glorious  golden 
promises  of  the  great  teachers  of  Christianity  ? 

The  catacombs  give  us  the  answer.  In  quite  late  years, 
slowly,  painfully,  the  antiquary  and  the  scholar  have  opened 
out  the  secrets  of  the  long-hidden  City  of  the  Dead  which 
lies  all  round  immemorial  Rome,  and,  thanks  to  their  labours, 
from  words  and  pictures  graven  and  painted  on  a  million 
graves,  comes  to  us,  across  the  many  centuries,  the  answer 
with  no  uncertain  voice. 

Yes,  the  People — the  slave  and  the  trader,  the  soldier  and 
the  noble — believed  the  words  of  the  New  Testament  writings, 
and  accepted  the  teaching  of  the  early  Christian  teachers, 
and  believing,  struggled  to  lead  the  life  the  Master  loved. 
None  for  a  moment  would  dare  to  doubt  the  mighty  power 
of  this  strange  weird  testimony  of  a  million  tombs  ;  it  is 
indeed  a  voice  from  a  thousand  graves. 

Then,  too,  what  may  be  termed  the  terminology,  that  is 
the  words  and  expressions  used  in  these  vast  cemeteries  for 
all  that  is  connected  with  death  and  burial,  teaches  the  same 
truth — that  for  a  believer  in  the  Name,  all  the  gloom  and 
dread  and  horror  usually  associated  with  death  are  absent  in 
these  short  epitaphs. 


The  catacomb  inscriptions  and  pictures,  besides  their 
overwhelming  testimony  to  the  belief  of  the  early  Christians 
in  the  continuance  of  life  after  death,  in  the  immortality  of 
the  soul,  a  testimony  expressed  in  a  countless  number  of  ways, 
bear  their  witness  to  some  of  the  more  important  dogmas  of 
the  Christian  faith. 

The  extreme  brevity  of  the  inscriptions  and  the  necessarily 
small  space  allotted  to  the  pictures  and  emblems  graven  and 
painted  on  the  sepulchral  slabs,  for  the  most  part  very  small, 
of  course  preclude  anything  like  any  complete  enunciation 
even  of  the  principal  Articles  of  the  Christian  faith  :  still 
what  we  find  on  these  slabs  tells  us  with  no  uncertain 
voice  in  whom  these  early  congregations  believed,  and  to 
whom  these  fervent  prayers  were  addressed.  Each  of  the 
Persons  of  the  ever-blessed  Trinity  are  named  in  many  of 
these  epitaphs. 

We  find  many  instances  of  the  formula  of  the  ancient 
creeds,  "  In  God  and  in  Christ."  This  distinct  enumera 
tion  of  the  two  first  Persons  of  the  Blessed  Trinity  bears 
witness  to  the  Catholic  faith  of  the  composers  of  the 

Nor  is  the  Third  Person  of  the  Trinity  absent  from  these 
epitaphs.  We  read  on  some  for  instance  :  "  In  the  Holy  Spirit 
of  God  "  ;  "  Mayest  thou  live  in  the  Holy  Spirit."  Even  the 
mention  of  all  three  Persons  of  the  Blessed  Trinity  has  been 
found  engraved  on  these  sepulchral  tablets. 

What,  however,  is  most  striking  in  these  early  records  of 
the  belief  of  the  Christian  congregation  is  the  testimony  they 
bear — a  testimony  repeated  an  innumerable  number  of  times — 
to  the  primitive  belief  in  the  supreme  Divinity  of  Jesus  Christ. 
We  find  again  and  again  such  formulas  as  "  In  the  name  of 
Christ";  "In  God  the  Lord  Christ";  "In  God  Christ"; 
"The  great  God  Christ"  ("Deo  Magno  Christo").  In  the 
earliest  epitaphs  the  most  common  symbol  is  the  fish,  painted, 
carved,  or  written  at  the  beginning  or  end  of  the  epitaph, 
not  as  part  of  the  sentence,  but  as  a  complete  formula  in 
itself.  Now  this  was  a  declaration  of  faith  in  "  Jesus  Christ, 
Son  of  God,  Saviour  "  ;  the  letters  which  form  the  Greek  word 


Ichthus,  as  we  have  explained,  being  the  initials  1  of  the  words 
of  this  formula. 

There  is  no  doubt  that  from  the  earliest  times  the  fish 
was  an  acknowledged  symbol  of  our  Lord.  It  became 
at  once  a  sacred  "  tessera  "  or  sign — quite  unintelligible 
to  the  pagan  and  official  world,  but  to  the  believer  a 
most  precious  symbol,  containing  with  striking  brevity  and 
yet  with  striking  clearness,  a  complete  precis,  so  to  speak, 
of  the  creed,  a  profession  of  facts  as  far  as  related  to  the 

The  catacombs  are  full  of  Christ.  It  was  to  Him  that  the 
Christians  of  the  age  of  persecution  ever  turned  :  it  was  on 
Him  they  rested — in  gladness  and  in  sorrow  ;  in  sickness  and 
in  health  ;  in  the  days  of  danger — and  these  were  sadly  numer 
ous  in  the  first  two  centuries  and  a  half — and  in  the  hour  of 
death.  It  was  from  His  words  they  drew  their  strength.  In 
the  consciousness  of  His  ever-presence  in  their  midst,  they 
suffered  gladly  for  His  sake.  With  His  name  on  their  lips 
they  died  fearlessly,  joyfully  passing  into  the  Valley  of  the 
veiled  Shadow.  On  the  tablet  of  marble  or  plaster  which 
closed  up  the  narrow  shelf  in  the  catacomb  corridor  where 
their  poor  remains  were  reverently,  lovingly  laid,  the  dear 
name  of  Jesus  was  often  painted  or  carved. 

The  catacombs  are  full  of  Christ.  We  have  spoken  several 
times  of  the  paintings  on  the  walls  and  ceilings  of  the  corridors 
and  chambers.  There  is  great  variety  of  these,  the  Old  and 
New  Testament  supplying  the  majority  of  subjects.  But  by 
far  the  favourite  subject  of  representation — certainly  the 
leading  type  of  Christian  art  in  the  first  days — was  the  figure 
of  the  "  Good  Shepherd."  It  does  not  only  appear  in  the  City 

1  The  initial  letters  of  the  Redeemer's  names  and  principal  titles  (in  Greek) 
made  up  the  word  ixQvs  or  fish.  Thus  : 

IHCOTC    =  Jesus. 
XPICTOC  =  Christ. 
6EOT        =  of  God. 
YIOC         =  Son. 
C12THP     =  Saviour. 


of  the  Dead.  It  was  often  graved  upon  chalices  used  in  the 
holy  Eucharist.  It  was  traced  in  gold  upon  glass,  it  was 
moulded  upon  lamps,  it  was  carved  upon  rings.  But  it  is 
to  the  catacombs  that  we  must  go  to  find  it  in  its  most 
varied  and  pathetic  forms — now  painted  in  fresco  upon 
the  walls  of  the  corridors  and  chambers  where  the  dead 
lie  so  thickly ;  now  roughly,  now  more  carefully  carved 
on  countless  tablets  ;  now  sculptured  upon  the  more  costly 

Sometimes  the  Shepherd  is  represented  with  one  sheep, 
at  times  with  several ;  some  listening  to  His  voice — some 
turning  listlessly  away.  We  come  upon  it  in  a  thousand 
places  on  the  tombs  themselves — in  the  little  chapels  or  oratories 
leading  out  of  the  corridors  where  the  more  distinguished 
among  the  dead  sleep.  It  is  the  favourite  symbol  of  the 
Christian  life  and  faith. 

This  constantly  recurring  figure  of  the  Good  Shepherd  with 
His  sheep  in  the  catacombs  throws  much  light  on  this  deeply 
interesting  and  at  the  same  time  important  question — What 
were  the  thoughts  of  that  early  Church  in  Rome  respecting 
Christ  and  His  teaching  ? 

We  must  remember  they  lived  very  near  the  times  when 
the  greatest  figure  in  history  lived  on  earth,  and  talked  with 
men.  We  shall  do  well  to  bear  in  mind  that  the  first  genera 
tion  of  these  Roman  Christians  were  taught  by  Peter  and 
by  Paul,  and  that  through  most  of  the  second  century  men 
lived  whose  fathers  must  have  seen  and  listened  to  these 
great  servants  of  the  Divine  Master,  certainly  to  their 
immediate  disciples. 

The  form  in  which  they  loved  best  to  think  of  this  Almighty 
Saviour  was  as  "  the  great  Shepherd  of  the  sheep "  —the 
Shepherd  of  the  First  Epistle  of  S.  Peter — the  Shepherd  of  S. 
Luke  and  of  S.  John.1 

A  great  and  eloquent  writer  2  in  one  of  his  most  suggestive 
works  does  not  hesitate  to  speak  of  what  he  terms  the  popular 
religion  of  the  first  Christians  as  the  religion  of  "  the  Good 

1  See  especially  Heb.  xiii.  20  ;  i  Pet.  ii.  2$-v.  4  ;   S.  Luke,  xv.  4,  7,  and 
above  all  S.  John  x.  n,  16. 

2  Dean  Stanley  of  Westminster,  Christian  Institutions,  chaps,  xiii.,  xiv. 


Shepherd/'  He  says  they  looked  on  that  figure  and  it  conveyed 
to  them  all  they  wanted.  And  then  he  adds  sorrowfully 
that  "  as  ages  passed  on  '  the  image  of  the  Good  Shepherd  ' 
faded  away  from  the  mind  of  the  Christian  world,  and  other 
emblems  of  the  Christian  faith  took  the  place  of  the  once 
dearly  loved  figure." 

"  Instead  of  the  good  and  gracious  Pastor,  there  came 
the  omnipotent  Judge,  or  the  Crucified  Sufferer,  or  the 
Infant  in  His  mother's  arms,  or  the  Master  in  His  parting 

All  these  later  presentments  of  the  Divine  Saviour  em 
phatically  are  beautiful  and  true,  but  they  are  not  what  the 
first  Christians  especially  dwelt  on.  These  loved  to  think 
of  Him  first  and  chiefest  as  "  the  Good  Shepherd  who  gave 
His  life  for  the  sheep." 

Among  the  many  pictured  figures  of  the  "  Good  Shepherd  " 
in  the  catacomb  sepulchral  galleries,  the  Shepherd  is  occasion 
ally  represented  with  a  kid  or  a  goat  in  place  of  a 
sheep  in  His  loving  arms  :  "  And  other  sheep  I  have  which 
are  not  of  this  fold.  Them  also  I  must  bring,  and  there  shall 
be  one  fold,  one  shepherd."  The  catacomb  theology,  as 
expounded  by  the  catacomb  teachers,  went  beyond  even 
these  gracious  words,  when  it  represented  the  creature 
on  the  shoulders  of  the  Master,  as  not  a  lamb  but  a 
kid — not  a  sheep  but  a  goat.  These  Christians  of  the  first 
day  were  persuaded  that  their  Master's  mission  on  earth 
was  "  not  to  repel  but  to  include,  not  to  condemn  but  to 
save  ;  they  believed  in  His  tender  compassion  and  boundless 
charity."  x 

This  sweet  and  loving  view  provoked  the  indignant  remon 
strance  of  the  stern  Tertullian  (circa  A.D.  200).  On  this  harsh 

1  Dean  Stanley  (Christian  Institutions]  calls  attention  to  the  curious  fact 
that  the  popular  religion  of  the  first  two  centuries,  as  shown  in  the  catacomb 
witnesses, ran,  in  some  particulars,  in  different  channels  from  the  contemporary 
writers  whose  reliquiae  have  been  preserved,  and  also  from  the  paintings 
and  writers  of  a  later  period  ;  for  instance,  the  "  Good  Shepherd  "  is  very  little 
alluded  to  even  by  the  writers  of  the  second  and  third  and  fourth  centuries  ; 
e.g.  Irenaeus  and  Justin,  Athanasius  and  Cyprian.  If  we  come  down  much 
later,  scarcely  any  notices  of  the  "  Shepherd  "  occur  in  the  Summa  of  Thomas 
Aquinas  ;  none  in  the  Tridentine  Catechism  ;  none  in  the  Anglican  Thirty- 
nine  Articles  ;  none  in  the  Westminster  Confession. 


protest  of  the  great  African  Father  Tertullian,  Matthew  Arnold 
founds  one  of  his  most  touching  poems  : 

"He  saves  the  sheep— the  goats  He  doth  not  save: 
So  spake  the  fierce  Tertullian. 

But  she  sighed: 

The  infant  Church,  of  love  she  felt  the  tide 
Stream  on  her  from  her  Lord's  yet  recent  grave, 
And  then  she  smil'd,  and  in  the  Catacombs, 
With  eye  suffused,  but  heart  inspired  true, 
She  her  Good  Shepherd's  hasty  image  drew, 
And  on  His  shoulder  not  a  lamb  but  kid." 


THE  wish  to  be  buried  in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  a  saint 
or  confessor,  though  perhaps  especially  marked  in  the  subter 
ranean  cemeteries  of  Rome,  was  not  peculiar  to  the  Christians 
of  the  very  early  centuries.  Many  other  instances  could  be 
quoted,  from  the  days  of  the  old  prophet  of  Bethel  who  wished 
his  bones  to  lie  beside  the  bones  of  the  man  of  God  who  came 
out  of  Judah  (i  Kings  xiii.  31)  down  to  King  John,  who  is  said 
to  have  requested  that  he  might  be  interred  at  Worcester 
directed  between  the  bodies  of  SS.  Oswald  and  Wulfstan. 

S.  Augustine's  De  curd  pro  mortuis  gcrendd  is  a  peculi 
arly  interesting  treatise.  The  great  bishop  discusses  at  some 
length  this  question,  and  his  words  throw  considerable  side 
light  upon  the  growing  practice  of  the  invocation  of  saints. 

The  treatise, written  about  A. 0.421,  was  a  reply  to  a  question 
addressed  to  him  by  S.  Paulinus  of  Nola,  a  very  saintly  and 
devoted  man,  but  at  the  same  time,  in  common  with  not  a 
few  holy  men  of  his  time,  superstitious  and  often  sadly  mistaken 
in  his  exaggerated  devotion  to  the  noble  army  of  martyrs  who 
had  played  so  well  the  part  of  pioneers  in  the  recent  days  of 
bitter  persecution. 

S.  Paulinus  had  been  asked  by  a  certain  widow  to  allow 
her  son  to  be  buried  in  the  church  of  the  martyr  S.  Felix  at 
Nola.  He  said  he  had  granted  her  prayer,  believing  that 
this  longing  desire  of  faithful  souls  that  their  dear  ones  should 
be  laid  close  to  the  remains  of  a  saint  was  based  not  merely 
on  an  illusion  but  on  some  real  need  of  the  soul.  But  S. 
Paulinus  evidently  was  uncertain  here,  so  he  asks  the  great 
teacher  Augustine — Did  it  really  help  one  who  was  dead  to 
be  buried  near  a  saint  ? 

S.Augustine's  reply  on  the  whole  was  cautious  :  he  remarked 
that  if  a  man  had  lived  righteously,  to  be  buried  close  to  a  saint 

21  321    " 


could  not  possibly  be  of  any  use  to  his  soul ;  again,  if  his  life 
had  been  evil,  it  would  be  equally  useless. 

Everything  connected  with  the  burial  of  the  dead,  Augustine 
concluded,  has  really  more  connexion  with  the  survivors  than 
with  the  dead.  He  explains  this  connexion  thus  :  "  When 
we  think  of  the  spot  where  our  dear  one  lies,  and  that  spot  is 
in  the  immediate  neighbourhood  of  the  grave  of  a  saint,  we 
think  at  once  of  the  saint  in  question,  and  we  ask  for  his 
or  her  prayers  for  our  dear  dead  one."  But  if  such  prayers  be 
not  asked  for,  Augustine  sees  no  advantage  in  such  a  neigh 
bourhood.  (Adjuvat  defunct i  spiritum,  non  mortui  corporis 
locus,  sed  ex  loci  memoria  vivus  affectus.) 

The  famous  North  African  theologian  then  proceeds  to 
discuss  the  question  :  "  How  do  martyrs  help  men  ?  "  He  says  : 
that  they  do  help  them  is  certain;  then,  are  these  saints,  through 
the  virtue  of  the  power  they  possess,  present  in  many  places, 
or  are  they  always  dwelling  in  the  home  allotted  to  them — far 
away  from  mortal  dwellings,  but  at  the  same  time  praying 
for  those  who  ask  for  their  intercession  ?  And  he  adds  that, 
God  hearing  their  prayers,  through  the  ministry  of  angels, 
grants  at  His  good  pleasure  to  those  who  have  sought  the 
prayers  of  the  saints,  the  consolations  these  saints  ask  for 

This  seems  to  be  the  substance  of  S.  Augustine's  reply  to  S. 
Paulinus  of  Nola,  but  he  carefully  guards  his  words  by  adding  : 
"  All  this,"  namely,  the  extent  of  the  power  of  saints  who  are 
dead,  "  is  too  lofty  a  question  for  me  to  answer  positively. 
It  is  too  obscure." 

'  I  should  like  to  ask  the  question  of  those  who  really 
know,  for  possibly  there  is  some  one  who  possesses  this  know 
ledge,"  curiously  added  the  great  thinker  and  loving  theo 




AMONG  all  the  various  evidential  arguments  adduced  in 
support  of  the  truth  of  Christianity,  many  of  them  of 
a  most  weighty  character  and  capable  of  an  almost 
indefinite  expansion,  the  history  of  the  Jewish  people,  their 
wonderful  past  and  their  present  condition,  their  numbers, 
their  books,  their  ever-growing  influence  in  the  world  of  the 
twentieth  century,  must  be  considered  as  the  most  striking 
and  remarkable. 

The  Christianity  of  the  first  century  was  surely  no  new 
religion  ;  it  was  closely  knit  to,  bound  up  with,  the  great 
Hebrew  tradition.  The  sacred  Hebrew  tradition  was  the 
first  chapter — the  preface,  so  to  speak — of  the  Christian 

The  early  or  pre-Christian  details  of  the  Jewish  story  are 
well  known  and  generally  accepted.  The  Old  Testament 
account  of  the  Jewish  race  historically  is  rarely  disputed. 

Less  known  and  comparatively  little  regarded  is  the  sub 
sequent  history  of  the  Chosen  People  ;  over  the  records  of  their 
fate,  after  the  final  and  complete  separation  of  Judaism  and 
Christianity,  an  almost  impenetrable  mist  settled,  and  the 
story  of  the  fortunes  of  the  remnant  of  the  Jews  who  survived 
the  terrible  exterminating  wars  of  Titus  and  Hadrian  has  been 
generally  neglected  by  the  historians  of  the  great  Empire. 

Very  few  have  even  cared  to  ask  what  happened  to  that 
poor  remnant  of  vanquished  Jews  :  all  that  is  commonly 
known  is  that  a  certain  number  survived  the  great  catas 
trophes,  and  that  their  scattered  descendants,  in  different  lands, 
appear  and  reappear  all  through  the  Middle  Ages — a  wandering 
and  despised  folk,  generally  hated  and  hating. 

But  these  are  still  with  us,  and  among  us  ;  that  they 
occupy  in  our  day  and  time  a  peculiar,  a  unique  position  of 



power  and  influence  which  they  have  gradually  acquired 
in  all  grades  of  modern  society  in  many  lands  is  now 
universally  recognized. 

This  subsequent  history  of  the  fortunes  of  the  Jewish  people 
from  the  dates  of  their  final  separation  from  the  Christian 
community,  and  the  great  catastrophes  of  the  years  of  grace 
A.D.  70  and  A.D.  135,  constitutes  a  piece  of  supreme  importance 
in  the  evidential  history  of  the  religion  of  Jesus  ;  and  yet, 
strange  to  say,  it  is,  comparatively  speaking,  unknown  and 

It  will  be  seen,  as  the  pages  of  this  wonderful  story  are 
turned  over,  how  the  guiding  hand  of  the  Lord,  though  in  a 
different  way,  just  as  in  the  far-back  days  of  the  desert  wander 
ings,  has  been  ever  visible  in  all  the  strange  sad  fortunes  of 
the  people,  once  the  beloved  of  God. 

The  Jews  of  the  twentieth  century,  numbering  perhaps 
some  ten  or  eleven  millions,  although  scattered  over  many 
lands,  constitute  a  distinct  race,  a  separate  people  or  nation. 
While  during  the  Christian  centuries  all  other  races — peoples 
—nations — without  a  single  exception  have  become  extinct, 
or  have  become  fused  and  merged  with  other  and  newer  races 
and  peoples,  they,  the  Jews,  have  alone  preserved  their 
ancient  nationality,  their  descent,  their  peculiar  features, 
their  individuality,  their  cherished  traditions — absolutely 

It  does  not  seem  ever  to  have  been  remarked  that  the 
rise  and  influence  of  the  great  Rabbinic  schools  of  Palestine 
and  Babylonia,  at  Tiberias  and  Jamnia,  at  Sura  and  Pum- 
beditha — schools  devoted  to  the  study  of  the  Torah  (the 
Law)  and  the  other  books  of  the  Old  Testament,  were  co 
incident  with  the  rise  and  influence  of  the  Gnostic  schools, 
schools  in  which  the  Old  Testament  was  generally  reviled 
and  discredited.  Is  it  too  much  to  assume  that  echoes  from 
the  great  Rabbinic  teaching  centres  reached  and  sensibly 
influenced  the  Christian  masters  in  their  life  and  death  contest 
with  Gnosticism,  a  contest  in  which  the  Old  Testament,  its 
divine  origin  and  its  authority,  was  ever  one  of  the  principal 
questions  at  stake  ? 


Nor  is  it  an  altogether  baseless  conception  which  sees  that 
the  reverence  and  love  of  at  least  a  large  proportion  of  earnest 
Christian  folk  for  the  Old  Testament  books,  a  reverence  and 
a  love  that  for  more  than  eighteen  hundred  years  has  under 
gone  no  diminution  or  change,  are  in  large  measure  due  to  the 
reverential  handling,  to  the  patient  tireless  studies  of  the 
great  Rabbinical  schools  of  the  early  Christian  centuries — 
to  the  passionate,  possibly  exaggerated,  love  of  the  Jew  for 
his  precious  book. 

Though  men  guess  it  not,  surely  echoes  from  those  strange 
Jewish  schools  of  Tiberias  and  Sura,  whose  story  we  are  about 
to  relate,  have  reached  the  hearts  of  unnumbered  Christians 
to  whom  the  Jewish  schools  in  question  and  their  restless  toil, 
all  centring  in  the  Holy  Books  in  question,  are  but  the  shadow 
of  a  name  ? 



IN  the  wonderful  Jewish  epic — so  closely  united  to  the 
Christian  story — which  stretches  already  over  several 
thousand  years,  the  history  of  the  three  last  awful 
wars  which  led  to  their  extinction  as  a  nation,  though  not  as 
a  people,  is  merely  a  terrible  episode  in  the  many-coloured 
records  of  the  wonderful  race. 

But  these  wars  are  specially  important,  for  they  were 
the  earthly  cause  of  the  great  change  which  passed  over  the 
fortunes  of  the  Jews.  Since  the  last  of  the  three  wars  they 
have  ceased  to  be  a  separate  nation,  and  have  become  a 
wandering  tribe  scattered  over  the  earth ;  but  though 
wanderers,  they  are  now  more  numerous,  more  influential 
in  the  world,  than  they  had  ever  been  even  in  the  days  of 
their  greatest  grandeur  and  magnificence. 

The  curious  religious  mania  which  seems  to  have 
possessed  them,  and  which  led  them  to  revolt  against  the 
far-reaching  power  of  the  Roman  Empire,  is  in  some  re 
spects  a  mystery.  We  can  only  very  briefly  recount  here 
the  state  of  parties  in  Jerusalem,  the  centre  of  the  nation, 
for  a  few  years  before  the  revolt  which  led  to  the  first  great 

In  the  year  B.C.  63  the  Roman  commander  Pompey 
established  the  Roman  rule  over  Judaea  ;  from  B.C.  6  the 
Jewish  province,  still  preserving  a  partial  independence,  was 
governed  by  procurators  sent  from  Rome,  and  by  a  native 
Herodian  dynasty.  The  Palestinian  Jews  were  roughly 
made  up  in  this  period  of  three  parties  : 

(1)  The  Sadducees  and  Herodians,  who  occupied  most  of 
the  high  offices  and  the  priesthood. 

(2)  The   Pharisees.     Strict  Jews,    loving  with  a  devoted 



love  the  Torah  or  Mosaic  Law  ;  on  the  whole  not  favourable 
to  the  Roman  and  Herodian  rule,  but  generally  quiet  and 
peace-loving.  These  included  dreamers — men  quietly  longing 
for  the  promised  Messiah,  Essenes,  and  later,  towards  the 
end  of  the  period  we  are  speaking  of,  Christian  Jews. 

(3)  Zealots  —  including  adventurers,  the  Sicarii  (or 
assassins),  a  wild  turbulent  clique  (or  sect),  and  a  confused 
medley  of  disorderly  folk,  making  up  a  formidable  party  of 
enthusiasts,  expecting  the  early  advent  of  a  Messiah  who 
should  restore  the  past  glories  of  the  Jewish  race  ;  these; 
were  usually  fierce  revolutionaries,  intensely  dissatisfied  with 
the  state  of  things  then  prevailing  ;  hating  Rome  and  the 
Herodian  dynasty  favoured  by  Rome  with  a  fierce 

These  Zealots  had  a  very  large,  though  disorderly,  following 
among  the  people. 

In  A.D.  66  the  revolt  broke  out  in  the  Holy  City.  Florus, 
the  Roman  Procurator  (or  Governor),  whose  conduct  during 
the  early  stages  of  the  great  revolt  is  inexplicable,  left  the 
city,  leaving  behind  him  only  a  small  garrison  ;  the  revolt 
spread  not  only  in  Palestine  and  in  parts  of  the  neighbouring 
province  of  Syria,  but  far  beyond — notably  in  the  great  city 
of  Alexandria,  where  a  large  Jewish  colony  dwelt.  Scenes 
of  terrible  violence  were  common,  and  fearful  massacres  are 
recorded  to  have  taken  place  in  various  centres  of  population 
where  Jews  were  numerous  ;  the  revolt  became  serious,  and 
the  Imperial  Legate  of  Syria,  Cestius  Gallus,  took  the  field 
against  the  insurgents.  He  seems  to  have  been  a  thoroughly 
incompetent  commander,  and  failed  completely  in  his  efforts 
to  regain  possession  of  Jerusalem,  the  headquarters  of  the 
revolutionary  party.  Gallus  retreated,  suffering  great  loss. 
The  failure  of  Gallus  inflicted  a  heavy  blow  upon  Roman 

To  put  an  end  to  the  serious  and  widespread  revolt,  in 
the  year  of  grace  67  Vespasian,  one  of  the  ablest  and  most 
distinguished  of  the  Roman  generals,  was  appointed  to  the 
supreme  command  in  Syria. 

Gradually,  as  the  result  of  a  terrible  campaign,  Vespasian 
restored  quiet  in  Palestine  and  the  neighbouring  region,  and 








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THE  BURNING  OF  THE  TEMPLE,  A.D.  70       331 

laid  siege  to  the  Holy  City,  where  the  Zealots  had  established 
what  can  only  be  termed  a  reign  of  terror. 

In  the  following  year,  A.D.  68,  the  violent  death  of  the 
Emperor  Nero,  and  the  state  of  confusion  that  followed  his 
death  throughout  the  Empire,  determined  Vespasian  to  pause 
in  his  operations,  and  for  a  short  period  Jerusalem  was  left 
in  the  hands  of  the  Zealots.  The  brief  reigns  of  the  Emperors 
Galba,  Otho,  and  Vitellius  were  followed  by  the  sudden  election 
of  Vespasian  to  the  Empire  in  the  year  69,  the  electors  being 
for  the  most  part  his  own  devoted  and  disciplined  legions  in 

Vespasian  soon  after  his  election  returned  to  Rome,  and  the 
Empire,  now  under  his  strong  rule,  was  once  more  united  and 
quiet.  He  left  behind  him  in  Palestine  as  supreme  commander 
his  eldest  son  Titus,  a  general  of  great  power  and  ability. 

The  siege  of  the  revolted  Jerusalem  was  once  more  pressed 
on  ;  an  iron  circle  now  encircled  the  doomed  city,  which,  in 
addition  to  its  wonderful  memories  of  an  historic  past,  was 
one  of  the  strong  fortresses  of  the  world. 

The  history  of  the  siege  and  the  eventual  fall  and  ruin  of  the 
famous  Jewish  capital,  with  all  its  nameless  horrors,  has  been 
often  told  and  retold ;  but  the  sad  episode  of  the  burning  of 
the  Temple,  with  all  its  eventful  consequences,  must  be  briefly 
touched  on. 

Why  was  this  world-famous  sanctuary — then  standing  in 
all  its  marvellous  beauty,  with  its  matchless  treasures,  some 
of  them  environed  with  an  aureole  of  sanctity  simply  unequalled 
in  the  story  of  the  nations  in  the  sphere  of  Roman  influence — 
ruthlessly  destroyed,  and  its  wondrous  treasures  swept  out  ? 
This  was  not  the  usual  policy  of  far-seeing  Rome. 

According  to  Josephus,  the  burning  of  the  Temple  was  the 
result  of  accident,  and  was  not  owing  to  any  premeditated 
plan  or  order  issuing  from  the  Roman  commander-in-chief. 

Modern  scholars,1  however,  believe  that  a  passage  from 
the  lost  Histories  of  Tacitus  has  been  discovered  which  describes 
how  a  council  of  war  was  held  by  Titus  after  the  capture  of 

1  Mommsen,  Renan,  and  Ramsay  without  hesitation  ascribe  the  statement 
quoted  here  as  taken  by  Sulpicius  Severus  (fourth  century)  from  the  lost 
portion  of  the  Histories  of  Tacitus. 


Jerusalem  in  which  it  was  decided  that  the  Temple  ought  to- 
be  destroyed,  in  order  that  the  religion  of  the  Jews  and  of  the 
Christians  might  be  more  completely  stamped  out. 

In  the  Talmud1  the  burning  of  the  Temple  is  ascribed 
to  the  "  impious  Titus." 

The  cruelties  which  are  associated  with  the  storming  of 
Jerusalem — the  loss  of  life  and  the  subsequent  fate  of  the 
prisoners  captured  by  the  victorious  army  of  Titus — make 
up  a  tale  of  horror  which  perhaps  is  unequalled  in  the  world's 
history  ;  there  is,  however,  no  doubt  that  the  awful  scenes 
of  carnage  and  the  fate  of  the  defenders  who  survived  the  fall 
of  the  city  were  in  large  measure  owing  to  the  obstinate  defenc  e 
and  irreconcilable  hatred  of  the  party  of  Jewish  Zealots  who 
provoked  the  war  and  for  so  long  a  time  had  been  masteis 
in  the  hapless  city. 

The  result  of  the  siege  by  Titus  may  be  briefly  summed 
up  as  follows.  The  Temple  and  the  City  of  Jerusalem  were 
absolutely  razed  to  the  ground,  and  may  be  said  to  have 
completely  disappeared  ;  only  the  mighty  foundations  of  the 
magnificent  Temple  remained.  These  still  are  with  us,  and 
after  nearly  two  thousand  years  bear  their  silent  witness  tc 
the  vastncss  and  extent  of  the  third  Temple.  It  is  no  ex 
aggeration  which  describes  it  as  one  of  the  most  magnificent 
buildings  of  the  Old  World. 

For  some  fifty-two  years — that  is,  from  A.D.  70  to  A.D.  122 
—a  vast  heap  of  shapeless  ruins  was  all  that  remained  of  the 
historic  City  of  the  Jews  and  its  splendid  Temple.  In  one 
corner  of  the  ruins  during  this  period  of  utter  desolation  the 
Tenth  Legion  (Fretensis)  kept  watch  and  ward  over  the  pathetic 
scene  of  ruin. 

In  the  year  of  grace  122,  under  the  orders  of  the  Emperor 
Hadrian,  a  new  pagan  city,  known  as  /Elia  Capitolina,  slowly 
began  to  arise  on  the  ancient  site.  This  new  city  will  be 
briefly  described  in  due  course. 

The  year  following  the  awful  catastrophe  which  befel  the 
Jewish  nation  witnessed  one  of  the  most  remarkable  of  the  long 
series  of  "  triumphs  "  which  usually  marked  the  close  of  the 
successful  Roman  wars. 

1  Talmud  (Bab.),  treatise  "Gittin,"  $6A. 

>„/  •-. 

THE  BURNING  OF  THE  TEMPLE,  A.D.  70      333 

In  A.D.  71,  Titus,  with  his  father  Vespasian  and  brother 
Domitian,  with  extraordinary  pomp  and  a  carefully  arranged 
pictorial  display,  entered  Rome.  This  triumph  was  adorned 
with  a  long  train  of  captive  Jews,  some  of  whom  were 
publicly  put  to  death  as  part  of  the  great  show.  Among  the 
more  precious  spoils  of  the  fallen  city  were  conspicuously 
displayed  some  of  the  celebrated  objects  rescued  by  the  victors 
out  of  the  burning  Temple,  —  such  as  the  famous  seven-branched 
sacred  candlestick  ;  the  golden  table  of  shewbread  ;  the 
purple  veil  which  hung  before  the  Holy  of  Holies  ;  and  the 
precious  Temple  copy  of  the  Torah  —  the  sacred  Law  of 

The  story  of  the  great  triumph  is  still  with  us,  graved  upon 
the  marble  of  the  slowly  crumbling  Arch  of  Titus,  —  the  traveller 
may  still  gaze  upon  the  figure  of  the  great  general,  crowned 
by  Victory,  in  his  triumphal  car  driven  by  the  goddess  Rome, 
and  upon  the  same  imperial  figure  borne  to  heaven  1  by  an 
eagle.  Still  the  carved  representation  of  the  sacred  candle 
stick  of  the  seven  branches,  and  the  golden  table,  are  beheld 
by  the  Christian  with  mute  awe  ;  by  the  Jew  with  a  mourning 
that  refuses  to  be  comforted.  But  the  sacred  things  2  themselves 
over  which  brood  such  ineffable  memories  are  gone. 

The  fall  of  Jerusalem,  the  utter  destruction  of  the  Holy 
City,  the  burning  of  the  Temple,  really  sealed  the  fate  of 
the  Jews  as  a  separate  nation.  The  centre  of  the  chosen 
race  existed  no  longer.  The  sacred  rites,  the  daily  sacri 
fice,  and  the  offering  ceased  for  ever.  The  great  change  in 
Judaism  we  are  going  to  dwell  upon  must  be  dated  from 
the  year  70.  But  more  terrible  events  had  yet  to  happen 
before  the  Jew  acknowledged  his  utter  defeat,  and  recognized 
that  a  great  change  had  passed  over  him  and  had  finally 

1  The  arch  was  completed  by  Domitian  after  the  death  of  Titus. 

3  The  golden  relics  were  deposited  in  the  Temple  of  Peace,  which  Vespasian 
built  opposite  the  Palatine  ;  it  was  dedicated  A.D.  75.  The  temple  in  question 
was  destroyed  completely  by  fire  in  the  reign  of  Commodus.  The  temple 
copy  of  the  Torah  was  taken  to  the  imperial  palace.  The  Emperor  Severus, 
who  built  a  synagogue  for  the  Roman  Jews,  handed  over  this  precious  MS.  to 
the  Jewish  community  in  Rome.  The  MS.  has  disappeared,  but  a  list  of 
some  of  the  readings  of  this  venerable  codex  has  been  preserved  in  the  Massorah,t  _  - 
and  is  still  available  for  use. 


altered  the  scene  of  his  cherished  hopes  and  glorious 

Two  more  bloody  wars  had  to  be  fought  out  before  the 
Jew  settled  down  to  his  new  life — the  life  to  be  lived  by  the 
Chosen  People  for  a  long  series  of  centuries,  the  life  he  is 
living  still,  though  more  than  1800  years  have  come  and  gone 
since  Titus  brought  the  sacred  Temple  treasures  from  the 
ruined  city  to  grace  the  proud  Roman  triumph. 

Under  Trajan  in  A.D.  116-7,  and  again  under  Hadrian 
in  A.D.  133-4, tne  Zealot  party  of  the  defeated  but  still  untamed 
people  again  rose  up  in  arms  against  the  mighty  Empire  in 
the  heart  of  which  they  dwelt. 

We  will  rapidly  sketch  these  last  disastrous  revolts.  The 
spirit  of  unrest  and  of  hatred  of  the  Roman  power — the  wild 
Messianic  hopes  which  had  inspired  the  party  of  Zealots  in 
Jerusalem  in  the  first  war  which  had  ended  so  disastrously 
—still  lived  in  the  great  Jewish  centres  of  population  outside 
the  Holy  Land,  in  countries  where  the  desolation  which  suc 
ceeded  the  events  in  70  had  not  been  acutely  felt. 

The  Palestinian  Jews  for  a  time  were  apparently  hopelessly 
crushed,  but  the  Jews  of  Cyrene  and  Alexandria  were  still 
a  powerful  and  dangerous  group.  It  is  impossible  now  to 
indicate  the  precise  causes  of  the  formidable  rising  of  A.D. 
116-7.  The  absence  of  Trajan  and  his  great  army  in  the  more 
distant  regions  of  Asia,  and  the  news  that  the  Roman  arms 
had  met  with  a  serious  check  in  that  distant  and  dangerous 
campaign,  seem  to  have  given  the  signal  for  an  almost  simul 
taneous  Jewish  uprising  in  the  Cyrene  province,  in  the  city 
of  Alexandria,  and  in  Cyprus. 

We  do  not  possess  any  very  exact  details  here.  The  revolt 
was  generally  characterized  by  horrible  cruelties  on  the  part 
of  the  Jewish  insurgents,  and  we  read  of  fearful  massacres 
perpetrated  by  the  revolted  Jews.  The  insurrect  on  spread 
with  alarming  rapidity,  and  became  a  grave  danger  to  the 
Empire.  At  first  we  only  hear  of  several  successes  and  victories. 
In  the  cities  of  Alexandria  and  Cyrene  a  reign  of  terror  prevailed; 
but,  as  was  ever  the  case  when  Rome  in  good  earnest  put  forth 
her  disciplined  forces,  the  insurgents  found  themselves  out 
numbered  and  out-generalled.  Two  of  the  most  distinguished 


of  the  imperial  commanders,  Marcius  Turbo  and  Lucius  Quietus, 
conducted  the  military  operations.  The  war — for  the  Jewish 
revolt  of  A.D.  116-7  assumed  the  proportions  of  a  grave 
war — lasted  well-nigh  two  years  ;  but  the  insurgents  were  in 
the  end  completely  routed. 

The  numbers  of  slain  in  this  wild  and  undisciplined  outburst 
of  Jewish  fury,  according  to  the  records  of  the  historians  of 
the  war,  are  so  great  that  we  are  tempted  to  suspect  them 
exaggerated.  In  Cyrene  and  the  neighbouring  districts  the 
number  who  perished  is  given  as  twenty-two  thousand ; 
the  loss  of  life  in  Alexandria,  Egypt,  and  Cyprus  seems  to  have 
been  equally  terrible.  But  even  granted  that  the  numbers  of 
Jews  who  perished  in  this  fanatical  rebellion  have  been,  from 
one  cause  or  other,  exaggerated,  it  is  certain  that  the  numbers 
of  the  slain  were  enormous,  that  the  power  and  influence  of 
the  Chosen  People  suffered  a  terrible  check  as  the  result  of 
this  rising,  and  that  in  the  great  cities  of  Cyrene  and  Alexandria 
the  Jewish  population  of  these  centres — large  and  flourishing 
communities,  possessing  great  wealth  and  influence,  distin 
guished  for  their  high  culture  and  learning — were  almost 
annihilated.  The  results  of  the  insane  revolts  of  A.D.  116-7 
were  indeed  disastrous  to  the  fortunes  of  this  extraordinary 
and  wonderful  people. 

But  the  end  was  not  yet.  Another  bloody  war,  with  all 
its  fearful  consequences,  had  to  be  waged  between  the  Jew 
and  the  Empire  before  the  Chosen  People  finally  resigned 
itself  to  the  new  life  it  was  destined  to  live  through  the  long 
centuries  which  followed.  The  old  spirit  of  restlessness,  of 
wild  visionary  hopes  of  some  great  one  who  should  arise  in 
their  midst,  still  lived  among  the  more  ardent  and  fervid 
members  of  the  now  scattered  and  diminished  people. 

The  exciting  causes  of  the  last  great  revolt  have  been  vari 
ously  stated.  It  is  probable  that  the  conduct  of  Hadrian  in 
his  latter  years  had  become  less  tolerant,  while  a  persecuting 
spirit  more  or  less  prevailed  in  his  government.  Among  other 
irritating  measures  devised  by  Rome,  the  ancient  rite  of  cir 
cumcision  apparently  was  forbidden.  But  the  immediate 
cause  of  the  Jewish  uprising  no  doubt  was  the  steady  progress 


made  in  the  building  of  the  new  city,  JElia.  Capitolina,  on  the 
site  of  Jerusalem  and  the  Temple. 

That  a  pagan  city,  with  its  theatres,  its  baths,  its  statues, 
should  replace  the  old  home  of  David  and  Solomon  ;  that  a 
Temple  of  Jupiter  should  be  built  on  the  site  of  the  glorious 
House  of  the  Eternal  of  Hosts  ;  that  the  very  stones  of  old 
Jerusalem  and  her  adored  sanctuary  should  be  used  for  the 
construction  of  the  new  city  of  idols — was  indeed  especially 
hateful  to  the  proud  and  fanatic  Jew.  Sacrilege  could  go  no 
further.  Rapidly  the  insurrection  which  began  in  Southern 
Judaea  spread.  Once  more  the  Holy  Land,  especially  in  the 
southern  districts,  became  the  scene  of  a  fierce  religious  war  ; 
Bethia,  a  fortress  some  fifteen  miles  from  Jerusalem,  became 
the  central  place  of  arms  of  the  fierce  insurgents,  but  the 
revolt  spread  far  beyond  the  districts  of  Palestine. 

In  one  striking  particular  this  third  Jewish  war  differed 
from  the  first  and  second  revolts.  In  the  earlier  uprisings  it 
was  the  hope  of  the  appearance  of  a  conquering  Messiah  which 
inspired  the  fanatical  insurgents.  In  the  third  revolt  a  false 
Messiah  actually  presented  himself,  and  gave  a  new  colour 
and  spirit  to  this  dangerous  insurrection. 

The  hero  of  the  war — the  pseudo-Messiah  known  as  Bar- 
cochab  (the  son  of  a  Star) — is  a  mysterious  person  ;  his  name 
appears  to  have  been  a  play  upon  his  real  appellation,  and  was 
assumed  by  him  as  representing  the  Star  pictured  in  the 
famous  prophecy  of  Balaam  (Num.  xxiv.  17)  :  "  I  shall  see 
him/'  said  the  seer  of  Israel,  "  but  not  now.  .  .  .  There  shall 
come  a  Star  out  of  Jacob,  and  a  Sceptre  shall  rise  out  of  Israel." 
Was  this  pseudo-Messiah  simply  an  impostor,  a  charlatan, 
or  did  he  really  believe  in  his  mission  ?  The  Talmud  generally 
execrates  his  memory,  but  the  principal  doctor  of  that  age, 
Rabbi  Akiba,  at  a  time  when  the  Doctors  of  the  Law  had 
begun  to  exercise  a  paramount  influence  among  the  Jewish 
people,  believed  in  him  with  an  intense  belief,  and  supported 
him  in  his  Messianic  pretensions. 

Many,  but  by  no  means  all,  of  the  great  Rabbis  of  the  day 
seem  to  have  supported  this  Bar-cochab,  and  the  Talmud 
tells  us  that  not  a  few  of  them  endured  martyrdom  at  the 
hands  of  the  victorious  Roman  government.  All  contem- 

THE  LAST  WAR  OF  THE  JEWS,  A.D.  134-5        337 

porary  history  of  this  war  is,  however,  confused, — the  Talmud 
notices  are  especially  so  ;  the  details  are  simply  impossible 
to  grasp. 

Of  the  bravery  of  Bar-cochab  there  is  no  doubt ;  he  perished 
before  the  end  of  the  war,  and  some  time  after  Rabbi  Akiba,  his 
most  influential  supporter,  wras  put  to  an  agonizing  death  by 
the  victors. 

Of  Rabbi  Akiba 's  sincerity  there  are  abundant  proofs.  His 
memory  was  ever  held  in  the  highest  honour  by  his  country 
men.  He  was  reputed  to  be  the  most  learned  and  eloquent 
of  that  famous  generation  of  Jewish  teachers.  The  strange 
mistake  he  made  in  recognizing  the  false  Messiah  Bar-cochab 
is  hard  to  account  for. 

As  in  the  case  of  the  two  first  famous  Jewish  wars,  the 
Roman  power  seems  at  first  to  have  underrated  this  rebellion, 
which,  however,  soon  assumed  a  most  formidable  character. 
The  general  commanding  in  the  Syrian  provinces  proving 
incapable,  the  ablest  of  the  imperial  generals,  Sextus  Julius 
Severus,  was  summoned  from  his  command  in  distant  Britain 
to  Judaea.  The  Roman  tactics  employed  were  generally 
similar  to  those  adopted  by  Trajan's  generals  in  the  second 
Jewish  war  of  A.D.  116-7.  Severus  avoided  any  so-called 
pitched  battle,  but  advanced  gradually,  attacking  and  be 
sieging  each  of  the  rebel  garrisons,  thus  gradually  wearing 
out  the  impetuosity  and  ardour  of  the  fanatical  insurgents. 
The  war  lasted  from  two  to  three  years.  The  devastation, 
the  result  of  this  war,  was  evidently  very  awful,  and  the 
numbers  of  the  slain  seem  to  have  been  enormous.  We  read 
of  50  armed  places  being  stormed,  985  villages  and  towns 
being  destroyed  ;  580,000  men  were  said  to  have  been  slain, 
besides  many  who  perished  through  hunger  and  disease  : 
the  numbers  of  slain  in  another  account  are,  however,  only 
given  as  amounting  to  180,000.  One  cannot  help  coming 
to  the  conclusion  that  all  these  numbers  are  considerably 
exaggerated.  Judaea,  however,  there  is  no  doubt,  especially 
in  the  southern  districts,  became  literally  a  desert ;  wolves 
and  hyenas  are  stated  to  have  roamed  at  pleasure  over  the 
ravaged  country ;  the  south  of  Palestine  became  a  vast 
charnel-house,  and  the  present  barren  appearance  of  the 




country  indicates  that  some  terrible  catastrophe  has  at  some 
distant  period  passed  over  the  land.1 

The  sternest  measures  effectually  to  stamp  out  all  traces 
of  revolt  on  the  part  of  the  Jewish  nation  were  adopted  by 
the  Roman  government  after  the  close  of  the  campaign. 
Numbers  of  the  fugitives  were  ruthlessly  put  to  death.  Many 
were  sold  into  slavery.  No  Jew  was  ever  allowed  to  approach 
the  ruins  of  the  Holy  City.  Once  in  the  year,  on  "  the  day 
of  weeping,"  such  of  the  hapless  race  who  chose  were  suffered 
to  come  and  mourn  for  a  brief  hour  over  the  shapeless  pile 
of  stones  which  once  had  been  a  portion  of  their  sacred 

For  a  time  a  bitter  persecution  throughout  the  Empire 
punished  this  last  formidable  uprising  ;  but  these  rigorous 
measures  were  very  soon  relaxed  when  all  fear  of  another 
outbreak  had  passed  away,  and  the  Jews,  or  what  remained 
of  the  people,  were  suffered  to  live  as  they  pleased,  to  worship 
after  their  own  fashion,  and  to  pursue  the  study  of  their  loved 
Law  unmolested. 

M.  de  Champagny  (Lcs  Antonins,  livre  iii.  chap,  iii.) 
estimates  the  number  of  Jews  who  perished  in  the  three  great 
wars  of  A.D.  70,  of  A.D.  116-7,  and  of  A.D.  132-3-4  roughly 
as  follows  :  Under  Titus,  about  two  millions  ;  under  Trajan, 
about  two  hundred  thousand  ;  under  Hadrian,  about  one 

The  third  war  was  termed  in  the  Babylonian  Talmud 
"  the  War  of  Extermination." 


We  have  described  the  three  fatal  wars  at  some  length, 
because  the  wonderful  history  of  the  Jewish  race  entered  upon 

1  The  authorities  for  the  details  of  this  terrible  and  protracted  war  are 
Dion  Cassius  and  the  notices  in  the  Talmud,  especially  in  the  treatise  "  Gittin." 

-But  these  numbers,  as  we  have  stated,  although  derived  from  contem 
porary  authorities,  are  evidently  very  much  exaggerated. 


an  entirely  new  phase  after  the  disastrous  termination  of  the 
third  of  these  terrible  revolts.  From  the  year  of  our  Lord 
134—5  they  ceased  to  be  a  nation  and  became  wanderers  over 
the  earth. 

Yet  in  numbers  and  influence  they  can  scarcely  be  said 
to  have  diminished.  They  amalgamated  with  no  nation ; 
they  remained  a  marked  and  separate  people,  and  so  they 
continue  to  this  day,  though  well-nigh  eighteen  long  and 
troubled  centuries  have  passed  since  the  great  ruin. 

To  what  earthly  cause  is  this  marvellous  preservation 
of  the  Jews  to  be  attributed  ?  Unhesitatingly  we  reply, 
Not  to  the  rise  of  Rabbinism, — it  had  long  existed  among 
the  Chosen  People, — but  to  the  development  and  consolidation 
of  Rabbinism  and  to  the  famous  outcome  of  Rabbinism,  the 

The  traditional  history  of  Rabbinism  and  the  beginning 
of  the  marvellous  Rabbinic  book,  the  Talmud,  is  given  in  the 
Mishnah  treatise  "  Pirke  Aboth  "  (Sayings  of  the  Fathers). 
It  is  as  follows  : — 

Moses  received  the  written  Law  (the  Torah)  on  Mount 
Sinai.  He  also  received  from  the  Eternal  a  further  Law, 
illustrative  of  the  written  Law.  This  second  Law  was  known 
as  the  "  Law  upon  the  lip."  This  was  never  committed  to 
writing,  but  was  handed  down  from  generation  to  generation. 
Moses  committed  this  oral  Law  to  Joshua  ;  Joshua  com 
mitted  it  to  the  Elders  ;  the  Elders  committed  it  to  the  Pro 
phets  ;  the  Prophets  handed  on  the  sacred  tradition  of  "  the 
Words  of  the  Eternal  "  to  the  Men  of  the  Great  Synagogue. 
These  last  are  regarded  as  the  fathers  of  "  Rabbinism." 
Maimonides  tells  us  that  these  fathers  of  "  Rabbinism  " 
succeeded  each  other  (to  the  number  of  120),  commencing 
with  the  prophet  Haggai,  B.C.  520,  who  in  the  Talmud  is 
described  as  the  Expounder  of  the  oral  Law.  The  last  member 
of  the  "  Great  Synagogue  "  was  Simon  the  Just,  circa  B.C.  301. 

After  Simon  the  Just  a  succession  of  eminent  teachers 
known  as  the  "  Couples  "  handed  down  the  sacred  traditions 
of  the  "  Law  upon  the  lip  "  to  the  time  of  Hillel  and  Shammai, 
when  we  approach  to  the  Christian  era.  Hillel,  according 
to  the  Talmudic  tradition,  is  said  to  have  lived  100  years 


before  the  destruction  of  Jerusalem,  A.D.  70,  and  thus  to  have 
been  a  contemporary  of  Herod  the  Great. 

Very  little  really  is  known  of  the  "  Men  of  the  Great  Syna 
gogue,"  or  of  the  ten  "Couples"  who  succeeded  them; 
little  more  than  their  names  has  been  preserved.  It  is  scarcely 
probable  that  in  each  generation  only  a  pair  of  specially  dis 
tinguished  scholars  should  have  lived.  Most  likely  just 
ten  names  were  known,  and  they  were  formed  into  five  pairs 
or  couples  of  contemporaries,  after  the  fashion  of  the  last 
and  most  famous  pair,  Hillel  and  Shammai.  But  from  the 
times  of  Hillel  and  Shammai  we  have  abundant  historical 
testimony  as  to  the  existence  and  labours  of  the  Rabbinic 
schools.  Well-nigh  all  that  we  have  related  in  the  above 
passage  is  purely  traditionary.  There  is  no  doubt  a  basis 
of  truth  in  the  account  we  have  given,  but  the  contem 
porary  history  is  too  scanty  for  us  to  describe  this  relation 
in  the  treatise  "  Pirke  Aboth,"  which  thus  connects  the  Mish- 
nah  compilation  in  a  direct  chain  with  Moses,  as  anything 
more  than  a  widely  circulated  legendary  and  traditional 

We  can,  however,  certainly  assert  that  the  foundations 
of  the  teaching  of  the  school  of  Rabbinism  which,  after  the 
great  ruin  of  the  year  of  Grace  70,  began  to  exercise  a 
paramount  influence  over  the  fortunes  of  the  Jewish  race, 
were  laid  at  a  very  early  period,  several  hundred  years 
before  the  Christian  era. 

There  is  no  doubt  that  Hillel  and  Shammai  founded  or, 
more  accurately  speaking,  developed  the  existing  Rabbinic 
schools  and  gathered  into  them  large  numbers  of  disciples. 
The  great  development  of  Rabbinism  which  is  ascribed  to  the 
two  famous  teachers  Hillel  and  Shammai  was  evidently  owing 
to  the  complete  absorption  of  Palestine  by  Rome,  under  the 
baleful  influence  of  the  royalty  of  Herod  the  Great ;  these 
causes  were  gradually  undermining  Judaism,  not  only  in  a 
political  but  also  in  its  religious  aspect.  Hillel  and  Shammai 
were  fervid  and  earnest  Jews,  and  were  determined  to  infuse 
a  new  religious  spirit  into  the  nation.  Still,  it  is  more  than 
probable  that  all  this  early  Rabbinism  would  scarcely  have 
been  more  than  a  school  of  curious  literary  speculation,  and 


perhaps  would  not  have  seriously  and  permanently  influenced 
the  life  of  the  Jewish  people,  had  it  not  been  for  the  awful 
events  of  the  year  A.D.  70.  When  Jerusalem  ceased  to  exist, 
and  the  Temple  was  finally  destroyed,  then  Christianity 
emerged  from  the  heart  of  Judaism,  and  gathered  into  its  fold 
many  of  the  Chosen  People. 

What  happened  in  the  year  A.D.  70  had  a  tremendous  effect 
on  the  life  of  the  Jews, — far  more  than  the  ordinary  historian 
usually  assigns  to  it.  It  has  been  tersely  but  truly  said  that, 
"  unparalleled  as  were  the  calamities  which  attended  the 
fall  of  Jerusalem  and  the  destruction  of  the  Temple,  by  far  the 
most  terrible  of  all  was  the  total  collapse  of  Judaism  as  a 
Creed,  owing  to  the  annihilation  of  all  the  divinely  instituted 
means  of  access  to  God.  The  religious  pulse  of  the  nation 
ceased  to  beat,  as  it  were,  with  a  suddenness  most  appalling. 
We  hear  nothing  of  the  Sadducees  in  those  days,  .  .  .  they 
were  swept  away  like  chaff  before  the  tempest  never  to  appear 
any  more  ;  but  the  Pharisees,  to  whom  the  Rabbis  and  Scribes 
belonged,  remained  steadfast,  and,  collecting  the  poor  remnant 
of  the  people  around  them,  determined  to  infuse  new  life  into 

Mosaism  was  irretrievably  destroyed  in  the  year  of  our 
Lord  70,  but  the  foundations  of  Rabbinism  had,  as  we  have 
noticed,  been  laid  long  before.  It  was  only  necessary  to 
consolidate  it,  to  give  it  shape  and  form,  and  to  claim  for 
the  words  of  its  expounders  a  yet  higher  authority  than  had 
as  yet  been  conceded  even  to  the  written  Law  (the  Torah). 
And  this  was  done,  or  more  accurately  speaking  was  commenced, 
in  the  last  twenty  or  thirty  years  of  the  first  century  (the  years 
immediately  following  the  catastrophe  of  A. 0.70)  bythe  disciples 
of  Rabban  Jochanan  ben  Zacchai,  who  were  certainly  the 
earliest  elaborators  of  the  Mishnah,1  the  first  and  oldest  part 
of  the  famous  Talmud. 

1  What  the  Mishnah  was  will  be  explained  below  (p.  358),  where  a  general 
description  of  the  Talmud  is  given. 




Historical  summary  of  events  leading  up  to  the  com 
pilation  and  consolidation  of  the  first  part  of  the  Talmud— 
the  Mishnah. 

After  A.D.  70,  when  Jerusalem  and  the  Temple  were 
destroyed,  an  extraordinary  group  of  Rabbis  or  teachers  of 
"  the  Law  "  arose — men  of  rare  gifts,  far-seeing  and  possessing 
unusual  powers  of  communicating  their  enthusiasm  to  other 
men.  These  teachers  recognized  the  utter  hopelessness  of 
any  further  war  with  Rome  ;  they  abandoned  all  expecta 
tion  of  seeing  the  Temple  rebuilt ;  they  saw  that  the  future 
of  Israel  lay  not  in  any  restoration  of  its  nationality  as  a 
people — that  was  now  hopeless.  But  Israel  alone  among  the 
people  of  the  world  possessed  a  Divine  Law,  was  the  inheritor  of 
a  glorious  promise,  a  promise  which  they  maintained  belonged 
alone  to  them  ;  no  earthly  misfortune  could  rob  the  Jew  of 
this  :  they  were  the  people  specially  beloved  of  God,  and 
only  by  neglecting  the  observance  of  the  Divine  Law  could 
they  forfeit  the  sure  and  blessed  inheritance  reserved  for 
them.  That  same  Law  must  be  their  sole  guide  in  all  the 
various  details  of  life — in  the  smallest  matters  as  in  the  more 
important.  In  the  rigid  keeping  of  it  they  would  in  the  end 
receive  their  great  reward,  the  reward  reserved  for  them, 
and  for  them  alone,  as  the  peculiar  people  of  God  the  Supreme, 
the  Almighty. 

For  some  five  centuries,  since  the  days  of  Ezra  and  the 
return  of  the  remnant  of  the  people  from  the  Captivity, 
"  the  Mosaic  Law,"  as  contained  in  the  Pentateuch,  essenti 
ally  in  the  same  form  as  we  now  have  it,  had  been 
regarded  by  the  Jew  with  an  almost  limitless  reverence.  The 
acknowledgment  of  its  awful  and  binding  precepts  was  the 
condition  without  which  no  one  was  a  member  of  the  Chosen 
People,  or  could  have  a  share  in  the  glorious  promises  reserved 
for  them. 

THE  RABBIS  AFTER  A.D.  70  343 

Their  teachers  insisted  that  the  commands  of  "  the  Law  " 
(the  Torah)  were  in  their  entirety  the  commands  of  God. 
"  He  who  says  that  Moses  wrote  even  one  verse  of  his  own 
knowledge  is  a  denier  and  despiser  of  the  Word  of  God." 
The  whole  Pentateuch  thus  came  to  be  regarded  as  dictated 
by  God.  Even  the  last  eight  verses  of  Deuteronomy,  in 
which  the  death  of  Moses  is  told,  were  asserted  to  have  been 
written  by  means  of  a  divine  revelation.  Some  of  the  teachers 
even  went  further  ;  they  asserted  that  the  complete  book 
of  the  Law  had  been  handed  to  Moses  by  God.1 

As  time  went  on,  the  other  Books  of  the  "  Old  Testament  " 
—at  first  the  writings  of  the  older  prophets  and  works  on 
the  pre-exilic  period  of  Israel ;  then  the  body  of  the  "  pro 
phets  "  and  the  other  Old  Testament  writings,  became  also 
regarded  as  documents  in  which  the  will  of  God  was  revealed 
in  a  manner  absolutely  binding. 

Round  the  Law  (Torah)  had  gathered  a  vast  number 
of  explanatory  directions,  and  a  certain  number  of  traditional 
additions  known  as  "  Haggadah."  The  first  of  these,  the 
directions  or  explanations,  were  known  by  the  term  "  Hala- 
chah."  It  had  become  necessary,  seeing  that  the  Law 
of  Moses  was  accepted  as  the  divine  code  for  the  guidance  of 
the  Chosen  People,  to  explain  and  enlarge  it  further,  so  as 
to  apply  its  brief  enactments  to  all  the  conditions  of  every 
day  life.  Some  few  of  these  Halachah  were  traditionally 
derived  from  Moses  himself.  Others  had  probably  been 
composed  very  early  in  the  schools  of  the  prophets  ;  yet 
more  were  the  work  of  the  Scribes,3  a  numerous  class  of 
teachers  which  had  arisen  after  the  return  from  exile  in  the 
days  of  Ezra.  These  Halachah  (we  use  the  well-known 
expression  in  preference  to  the  more  accurate  plural  form 
Halachoth ;  the  same  course  has  been  followed  in  that  of 

1  These  singular  assertions  will  be  found  in  the  Mishnah,  in  the  Talmudic 
treatises  of  the  Sanhedrim  and  the  Baba-Bathra. 

2  Halachah  signifies  literally  custom,  practice,  rule.     The  term  is  further 
explained  and  illustrated  in  the  following  chapter  on  the  "  Contents  of  the 
Talmud."     Haggadah,  which  generally  signifies  Tradition,  is  also  explained 
and  illustrated  (see  Appendix). 

8  These  Scribes,  their  position  and  means  of  livelihood,  are  discussed  more 
fully  below  on  p.  350. 


the  expression  "  Haggadah  ")  had  been  largely  augmented  in 
the  half-century  preceding  the  catastrophe  of  A.D.  70. 

The  group  of  eminent  Rabbis  who  arose  after  the  fall  of 
the  City  and  Temple,  and  who  set  themselves  the  task  of 
reconstituting  Israel  on  a  new  and  purely  religious  basis, 
took  these  Halachah,  studied  them,  meditated  on  them, — 
no  doubt  recast  many  of  them  to  suit  the  new  position  of  the 
people,  now  that  the  Temple  and  its  complicated  ritual  of  sacri 
fice  and  public  prayer  had  disappeared,  and  framed  them  into  an 
elaborate  system  of  regulations,  thus  pointing  out  how  the  Law 
might  be  rigidly  observed  in  all  the  relations  of  ordinary  life. 

This  great  and  elaborate  work  is  termed  the  Mishnah  1 — 
or  '  Repetition," — the  term  originally  derived  from  the 
method  in  which  it  was  elaborated.  It  was  not  written 
down  in  the  first  instance,  but  was  repeated  again  and  again 
by  the  more  famous  teachers  and  heads  of  schools  to  their 
pupils.  The  term  "  Mishnah  "  came  in  time  to  signify  "  the 
second  Law,"  but  that  was  not  the  original  meaning  ;  it  be 
longed  to  a  period  when  the  whole  instruction  was  oral. 

The  period  of  the  elaboration  of  these  Halachah  (rules) 
and  Haggadah  (tradition)  lasted  somewhere  about  a  hundred 
years  or  a  little  more.  The  great  teachers  who  busied  them 
selves  in  this  work  are  ordinarily  termed  the  Mishnic  Rabbis 
—the  Talmud  term  for  them  being  Tannaim. 

In  the  last  years  of  the  second  century  the  Mishnah  or 
first  part  of  the  Talmud  was  virtually  closed,  and  the  great 
Rabbinic  schools  then  busied  themselves  in  further  com 
menting  upon  and  explaining  the  Halachah  (rules)  and 
Haggadah  (traditions)  of  the  Mishnah  ;  these  further  com 
ments  and  explanations  are  known  as  the  Gemara. 

This  second  part  of  the  Talmud,  known  as  "  Gemara/' * 
the  complement  of  the  first  or  Mishnic  portion,  was  the 
outcome  of  the  labours  of  several  hundred  Doctors  or 
Rabbis.  Two  famous  schools  of  Rabbinical  study  carried 
on  the  great  work  of  commenting  on  the  Mishnah.  The  one, 
the  Palestinian,  had  its  headquarters  in  Tiberias.  The 
chief  centres  of  the  other,  the  Babylonian,  were  Sura  and 
Pumbeditha.  In  both  these  compilations  the  same  Mishnah 

1  The  Mishnah  and  the  Gemara  are  explained  in  detail  below  on  p.  358. 


is  the  text  on  which  the  vast  body  of  commentary  is  based. 
But  the  Gemara,  or  commentary,  is  in  many  cases  different. 
The  Palestinian  Talmud  in  the  form  which  now  exists  is 
much  shorter  than  the  Eastern  or  Babylonian  work.  The 
Palestinian  Rabbis  worked  from  about  the  year  of  our  Lord 
190  ;  their  work  was  closed  in  the  middle  of  the  fifth  century. 
The  labours  of  the  Babylonian  doctors  may  be  dated  from 
the  last  years  of  the  second,  and  were  closed  in  the  middle  or 
later  years  of  the  sixth  century. 

The  Babylonian — the  larger  Talmud, containing  theMishnah 
and  Gemara,  which  has  come  down  to  us  fairly  intact,  fills 
some  twelve  large  folio  volumes,  and  covers  no  less  than 
2947  folio  leaves  in  double  columns  ;  or  in  other  words,  5894 
pages  written  in  Hebrew,  Aramaic,  or  Rabbinic.  The  nature 
of  these  vast  compilations  is  described  more  in  detail  in  a  later 
section  of  this  Fifth  Book. 

The  Talmudic  term  for  the  doctors  of  the  Gemara  is  Amoraim. 

The  one  purpose  and  object  of  the  Talmud,  followed  out 
with  a  changeless  and  restless  industry  by  the  doctors  of  the 
Mishnah  and  the  Gemara,  from  the  year  70  to  nearly  the 
close  of  the  sixth  century — that  is  to  say,  for  a  period  of  some 
five  hundred  years — was  the  Glorification  of  Israel.  Law  and 
legend,  rule  and  tradition,  massed  together  with  rare 
skill,  all  dwell  on  this.  The  Jews,  and  only  the  Jews,  were  the 
people  chosen  by  God.  If  they  would  but  honour  Him  and 
serve  Him  faithfully  they  would  in  the  end  win  the  exceeding 
great  and  promised  reward.  The  way,  and  the  only  way,  to 
know  Him  and  to  serve  Him  \vas  pointed  out  with  unerring 
lucidity  and  a  marvellous  wealth  of  detail  in  the  mighty  com 
pilation  of  the  Talmud.  They  were  strictly  warned  against 
encouraging  proselytes.  The  ineffable  blessings  belonged 
to  the  Jew  and  to  the  Jew  alone.  Again,  the  exceeding 
great  reward  belonged  not  to  the  successful  Jewish  soldier, 
but  to  the  Jew  who  kept  the  stern  Law  handed  down  from 
Moses  to  prophet,  and  by  prophet  to  scribe,  and  by  scribe 
to  the  Rabbis  who  compiled  the  Mishnah  and  Gemara,  which 
together  make  up  the  Talmud.  The  question  of  revolt  against 
Rome  found  no  place  in  the  Talmud  teaching. 


After  the  three  great  wars — especially  after  the  first,  which 
closed  with  the  destruction  of  the  Temple — the  Jew  had  no 
nationality,  no  country.  He  needed  none.  He  had  something 
far  greater.  He,  and  only  he,  was  possessor  of  the  blessed 
Divine  Law  ;  the  solitary  heir  of  its  glorious  promises. 

The  Talmud  became  the  bond  which  linked  together  in 
one  solid  group  the  Jews  of  Cyrene  and  Alexandria,  of  Rome 
and  Babylonia.  Its  power  over  the  Jewish  mind  became 
boundless.  It  possessed  indeed  a  wondrous  fascination  for 
every  child  of  Israel.  It  impressed  upon  each  member  of  the 
scattered  race,  in  a  wray  no  teaching  had  ever  previously  done, 
the  consciousness  who  he  was,  and  what  was  the  awful  nature 
of  his  inheritance.  Strong  in  this  consciousness,  he  endured 
all  the  wrongs  and  persecutions,  the  cruel  acts  and  yet  more 
cruel  words  which  have  been,  with  rare  interludes,  his  lot 
since  A.D.  70.  All  through  the  subsequent  ages  he  endured 
a  bitter  persecution,  which  even  in  our  own  day  and  time  is 
still  in  many  lands  constantly  ready  to  break  out  against  him. 

Strong  in  this  consciousness  he  lives  on,  a  willing  wanderer 
and  a  stranger  among  the  various  nations  of  the  earth,  hated  and 
hating, — feared  but  at  the  same  time  honoured ;  ever  increasing 
in  numbers,  in  wealth,  and  influence.  His  hand  is  in  each  group 
of  statesmen,  now  publicly,  more  often  hidden,  but  always  there : 
he  is  yet  greater  in  the  exchanges  and  marts  of  the  nations ; 
the  finance  of  every  civilized  country  is  more  or  less  guided  by 
him,  more  or  less  subject  to  his  dictation  and  supervision. 

Who  now,  men  ask,  is  this  ever-present  changeless  Jew  ? 
WTiat  is  the  secret  of  his  power  and  ever-growing  influence  ? 
The  second  great  awakening — the  awakening  to  the  grandeur 
of  his  true  position  in  the  world's  story — when  all  seemed  lost, 
when  his  Temple  and  City  were  destroyed,  when  he  became 
at  once  homeless,  landless,  an  outcast  hated,  even  despised, 
as  far  as  we  can  see,  was  the  work  of  the  Doctors  and  Rabbis 
of  Tiberias  in  Galilee,  and  of  Sura  and  other  centres  in 
Babylonia,  in  the  years  which  followed  the  crushing  ruin  of 
A.D.  70.  It  was  the  work  of  the  compilers  and  teachers  of  the 
Mishnah  and  Gemara  which  together  made  up  the  Talmud. 
We  may  now  and  again  wonder  at  the  curious  and  startling 
assertions  of  the  Mishnah,  and  even  smile  at  some  of  the 


marvellous  extravagances  of  the  Gemara  ;  but  when  we  ponder 
over  the  wonderful  story  of  the  Jew  during  the  eighteen 
centuries  which  have  passed  since  the  desolation  of  A.D.  70, 
we  dare  not  mock  at  the  Talmud. 

When  we  consider  the  whole  question  of  what  we  have 
termed  "  the  great  awakening  "  of  the  Jewish  people  after  the 
sudden  and  tremendous  ruin  of  the  City  and  Temple  ;  the  com 
plete  change  in  the  heart  of  the  Jew  ;  the  abandonment  of  the 
old  dream  of  the  restoration  of  the  kingdom  of  Israel ;  the 
adoption  of  a  spiritual  kingdom  in  its  place  :  when  we  remember 
the  universal  reverence  for,  the  implicit  obedience  which  very 
soon  began  to  be  paid  to,  the  teaching  of  the  Mishnah  and 
Gemara — the  Talmud — a  reverence  and  an  obedience  which 
completely  changed  the  life,  the  views,  the  hopes  of  the 
scattered  race  in  all  lands, — we  ask  the  pressing  question  : 
Whence  came  all  this — the  mighty  change,  the  enthusiasm 
which  has  never  paled  or  waned  ?  The  Mishnic  Rabbis — the 
Gemara  teachers,  numerous,  able,  and  devoted  though  they 
were,  some  few  of  them  men  of  lofty  genius  and  profound 
scholarship,  do  not  account  for  this  amazing  result. 

The  "  Talmud/"  the  outcome  of  these  famous  Rabbinic 
schools  of  the  early  Christian  centuries,  with  its  wild  extrava 
gances,  its  many  beautiful  thoughts,  its  peculiar  and  rigid 
system,  touched  the  heart  of  the  Jew,  and  bound  together  this 
people  condemned  to  wander  through  the  ages  without  a  home, 
a  country,  a  nationality,  with  a  link  no  time,  no  human 
hate  or  scorn  has  been  able  to  break  or  even  to  loose. 

The  strange  weird  Book  was  God's  mysterious  instrument 
by  which  He  has  chosen  to  preserve  intact  the  people  He  once 
loved — loves  still — until  the  day,  perhaps  still  far  distant, 
dawns  when  the  Jew,  with  eyes  opened  at  last,  shall  look 
on  Him  whom  they  pierced. 


One l  who  loved  with  a  love  passionate,  though  not  always 
discriminating,  this  vast  wondrous  compilation  which  has  so 
1  Dr.  Emanuel  Deutsch. 


marvellously  affected  the  fortunes  of  the  Chosen  People,  has 
written  the  following  words  :  "  The  origin  of  the  Talmud  is 
coeval  with  the  return  from  the  Babylonish  Captivity  (some 
five  centuries  before  Christ).  One  of  the  most  mysterious  and 
momentous  periods  in  the  history  of  humanity  is  that  brief  span 
of  the  Exile.  What  were  the  influences  brought  to  bear  upon 
the  captives  during  that  time  we  know  not.  But  this  we  know, 
that  from  a  reckless,  lawless,  godless  populace  they  returned 
transformed  inlo  a  band  of  Puritans.  .  .  .  The  change  is  there, 
palpable,  unmistakable — a  change  we  may  regard  as  almos: 
miraculous.  Scarcely  aware  before  of  the  existence  of  their 
glorious  national  literature,  the  people  now  began  to  press  rounc 
these  brands  plucked  from  the  fire,  the  scanty  records  of  their 
faith  and  history,  with  a  fierce  and  passionate  love,  a  love 
stronger  than  that  of  wife  and  child.  These  same  documents,  as 
they  were  gradually  formed  into  a  canon,  became  the  immutable 
centre  of  their  lives,  their  actions,  their  thoughts,  their  very 
dreams.  From  that  time  forth,  with  scarcely  any  intermission, 
the  keenest  as  well  as  the  most  practical  minds  of  the  nation 
remained  fixed  upon  them.  Turn  it,  and  turn  it  again,  says 
the  Talmud  with  regard  to  the  Bible,  for  everything  is  in  it." 

After  the  fall  of  the  City  and  the  burning  of  the  Temple  in 
A.D.  70  the  wonderful  records  of  the  Jew  and  his  Book  (the 
Talmud)  are  all  clear  and  definite.  How  it  was  composed, 
who  compiled  it,  and  why  it  was  put  out,  all  this  belongs  to 
history,  and  forms  a  most  important  though  little  known 
chapter  in  the  annals  of  the  Chosen  People  ;  in  some  respects 
also  it  is  a  most  weighty  piece  of  evidential  history — perhaps 
the  most  weighty — possessed  by  Christianity. 

But  some  of  the  materials  out  of  which  the  great  Book 
(the  Talmud),  which  has  so  enormously  influenced  the  fortunes 
of  the  Chosen  People  for  so  many  centuries,  was  composed, 
existed  before  the  catastrophe  of  A.D.  70.  We  will  briefly 
examine  what  we  know  of  the  ancient  materials  of  the  Talmud  ; 
the  examination  will  be  of  the  highest  interest. 

It  is  certain  that  very  early — no  doubt  in  the  far-back  days  of 
Moses — there  must  have  existed,  as  we  have  already  suggested, 
a  number  of  explanatory  laws  which  set  forth  in  detail  many 


of  the  laws  and  regulations  broadly  laid  down  in  the  original 
written  code  of  the  great  lawgiver.  Questions  must  have  been 
asked  again  and  again — To  what  cases  in  actual  life  the  brief 
written  precept  applied,  what  consequences  it  in  general 
entailed,  and  what  was  to  be  done  that  the  commandments 
might  be  fairly,  even  rigidly  observed.  In  a  number  of  cases 
the  original  written  Law  gave  no  direct  answer. 

To  supply  this  need  a  body  of  Halachah  (the  word  Halachah, 
as  we  have  stated,  signifies  rule,  practice,  custom)  gathered 
round  the  written  Law  (the  Torah).  Some  of  these  Halachah, 
tradition  said,  were  given  by  Moses  himself ;  others  were  said 
to  have  been  devised  by  that  primitive  council  of  the  desert 
wanderings, the  elders,  and  by  their  successors,  the  later  "judges 
within  the  gates,"  referred  to  in  the  Pentateuch.  As  time 
went  on  the  Halachah  or  authoritative  oral  Law  of  explana 
tion  no  doubt  formed  an  important  branch  of  the  studies 
pursued  in  those  schools  of  the  prophets  founded  by  Samuel 
in  the  early  days  of  the  monarchy — schools  of  which  we  know 
so  little,  but  which  throughout  the  pre-exilic  days  evidently 
played  a  part  in  the  life  of  the  kingdoms  of  Israel  and  Judah. 

On  the  return  from  the  Captivity,  some  five  centuries  before 
the  Christian  era,  the  remnant  of  the  nation  who  returned  to 
their  desolated  land  came  back  a  changed  people — "  a  band  of 
Puritans  "  we  have,  with  scarcely  any  exaggeration,  termed 
them  ;  while  the  Divine  Law  which  once  many,  perhaps  the 
majority,  of  the  people  neglected,  the  very  existence  of  which 
they  had  ignored,  almost  forgotten,  became  the  object  of  their 
passionate  love. 

During  the  period  of  exile,  of  which  we  know  so  little  but 
in  the  course  of  which  the  great  change  to  which  we  have  been 
dimly  alluding  passed  over  the  people,  the  memory  of  the  oral 
Law,  much  of  the  ancient  Halachah,  the  traditions,  the  sacred 
expositions  which  make  up  the  Haggadah,  were  kept  alive  by 
teachers,  in  the  first  instance  by  the  men  who  had  been  trained 
in  the  schools  of  the  prophets.  Then  after  the  return  from  exile 
the  study  of  all  these  treasured  memories — some,  as  we  have 
already  suggested,  possibly  dating  from  thedaysof  Moses — which 
surrounded  the  now  precious  Law,  received  a  new  development. 
The  Law,  the  Halachah,  the  traditions  generally  known  as 


Haggadah,  were  no  longer  the  mere  heritage  of  the  scholars 
who  composed  the  somewhat  mysterious  schools  of  the  prophets 
we  read  of  in  the  days  of  the  kings,  but  were  now  regarded 
as  the  precious  treasure  of  the  whole  nation. 

As  the  Divine  Law  rose  in  public  estimation  its  scientific 
study  and  exposition  became  a  great  and  popular  craft.  Every 
individual  of  the  nation  was  interested  in  knowing  it  and 
obeying  it.  A  numerous  and  independent  class  or  guild  arose 
which  made  its  investigation  and  study  the  chief  business  cf 
life.  These  men  were  known  as  the  Scribes  ;  they  became  the 
recognised  teachers  of  the  nation.  Some  of  them  were  men 
of  independent  means,  but  the  majority  practised  some  trade 
or  business  out  of  which  they  lived.  They  were  tent-makers, 
sandal-makers,  weavers,  carpenters,  tanners,  bakers,  etc.,  bui: 
the  study  of  the  Law  was  their  loved  occupation,  and  some  of 
them  attained  great  proficiency  in  their  work.  Such  a  class 
of  men  had  never  existed  in  any  people  before — has  nevei 
made  its  appearance  since  in  any  nation.1 

This  study  of  the  Law  became  a  veritable  science,  a  science 
that  gradually  assumed  the  very  widest  dimensions.  The 
name  given  to  it  is  "  Midrash  "  —interpretation,  and  it  in 
cluded  study,  meditation,  exposition,  investigation,  inquiry. 
The  men  of  the  "  Return  from  Exile  "  who  devoted  them 
selves  to  this  work  took  as  the  foundation  of  their  labours, 
first  the  written  Law  of  Moses,  then  gradually  the  records 
of  the  Prophets  and  the  other  writings  subsequently  included 
in  the  Old  Testament  canon  ;  and  to  this  material  was  added 
the  oral  Law,  or  such  portion  of  it  which  had  been  preserved, 
including  the  sacred  traditions  which  had  been  handed  down 
from  the  days  of  Moses  and  his  successors,  and  treasured 
up  in  the  schools  of  the  prophets.  In  this  "  Midrash  " — for 
we  will  keep  to  the  well-known  term  which  generally  included 
all  this  varied  and  comprehensive  study  of  the  Scribes  who 
lived  in  the  period  between  the  Return  from  the  Exile  and  the 
Christian  era  —  two  distinct  currents  can  be  distinguished. 
The  first  of  these  great  currents  may  be  termed  Prose,  the 
second  Poetry.  The  first  (the  prose)  is  called  Halachah 

1  The  period  here  referred  to  extended  from  the  return  from  the  Captivity 
— the  days  of  Ezra — roughly  until  the  Christian  era. 


(rules,  customs)  ;  the  second  (the  poetry),  Haggadah  (tradi 
tion  and  legend,  including  parable,  allegory,  lessons).1 

The  Halachah  (rules)  for  a  very  long  period  were  never 
written  down,  but  were  transmitted  from  teacher  to  teacher 
in  an  unbroken  succession,  orally,  with  many  and  various 
additions.  The  Haggadah  (traditions)  in  many  cases  were, 
however,  written  down,  and  so  transmitted. 

Thus  from  the  period  of  the  Return  from  the  Exile  a  vast 
bulk  of  teaching,  largely  unwritten,  traditional,  and  legendary, 
all  founded  on  and  closely  bearing  on  the  Law  (Torah),  had 
been  collected  by  the  Scribes  and  their  schools  stretching  over 
a  period  of  about  five  centuries.  Some  thirty  years  before 
the  Christian  era  Hillel,  the  great  Rabbinic  master  of  the 
period,  endeavoured  to  reduce  this  great  mass  of  teaching, 
oral  and  written,  rule  and  tradition,  Halachah  and 
Haggadah,  to  some  definite  system  and  order.  He  did 
something  in  this  direction,  but  died  before  his  task  was  in  any 
real  way  completed,  and  for  many  years  nothing  further  was 
done  in  the  way  of  codifying  or  arrangement. 

Then  came  the  great  upheaval  of  A.D.  70,  when  the  Holy 
City  was  razed  to  the  ground ;  when  it  appeared  as  though 
the  religion  of  the  Jew  was  destroyed,  now  that  the  Temple 
round  which  all  the  cherished  memories  of  the  people  were 
grouped  had  disappeared.  Curiously  enough,  as  it  appears 
to  men,  the  contrary  was  the  case  :  a  wonderful  resurrection 
of  religious  life  was  the  almost  immediate  outcome  of  the  falJ 
of  the  City  and  Temple. 

A  group  of  singularly  able  and  devoted  men,  as  we  have 
already  remarked,  arose  at  this  critical  moment  in  Jewish 
history — when  all  seemed  lost.  Judaism  in  the  year  70,  when 
the  long  and  bitter  war  with  Rome  was  finally  closed,  was 
stripped  of  everything.  It  had  lost  for  ever  its  position  as  a 
nation.  Its  Temple,  the  joy  of  the  whole  world,  as  their  royal 
songman  pictured  it,  was  a  heap  of  shapeless  ruins.  Its  most 
sacred  treasures  were  carried  away  to  adorn  an  Italian  triumph. 
The  Holy  City  was  literally  razed  to  the  ground.  The  pro- 

1  At  the  close  of  this  Fifth  Book  is  a  short  general  description  of  "  Hagga 
dah."  See,  too,  in  the  Appendix  for  a  further  description  of  Haggadah  and 


mised  land  of  their  fathers  was  desolated.  Thousands  of 
the  people  were  slain  or  reduced  to  slavery.  Of  the  Jews 
who  dwelt  as  strangers  in  Egypt,  Syria,  and  Italy — the  very 
name  was  hated  and  despised.  Only  one  thing  remained  to  the 
sad  remnant  of  the  Chosen  People  :  the  sacred  Law  of  Moses, 
the  Torah — the  writings  of  their  old  prophets — their  treasured 
Psalms — the  undying  records  of  their  past  glorious  history. 

And  these  precious  writings,  and  the  wonderful  bod}' 
of  rule  and  tradition,  oral  and  written,  which  had  gathered 
round  them,  the  Halachah  and  Haggadah  of  the  Scribes, 
collected  during  the  previous  four  or  five  centuries, — these 
were  saved  from  the  awful  wreck,  and  a  group  of  devoted 
Jews  gathered  them  together,  and  with  them  at  once  pro 
ceeded  to  train  up  a  new  and  a  yet  greater  and  more  influential 
people  than  had  ever  before  worshipped  the  Eternal  of  Hosts, 
even  in  the  golden  days  of  their  mighty  kings  David  and 
Solomon  ;  but  the  foundation-stories  of  the  grandeur  of  the 
new  Israel  were  not  to  be  built  with  human  materials.  No 
army,  no  strong  fortress,  no  stately  city,  not  even  a  visible 
temple  made  with  hands  after  the  fashion  of  the  glorious 
lost  House  of  God,  were  for  the  future  to  rank  among  the  proud 
and  cherished  possessions  of  the  Jew.  Only  the  Divine  Law 
given  him  direct  from  God  the  One  Supreme,  the  Ever 
lasting,  for  the  future  was  to  represent  to  the  Jew  home  and 
hearth,  family  and  nation,  City  and  Temple. 

If  the  Jews — the  scattered  harassed  remnant  who  sur 
vived  the  bloody  Roman  war  of  Titus — would  with  heart  and 
soul  keep  the  precepts  of  the  Divine  Law,  what  mattered 
insult  and  cruelty,  human  scorn  and  malice,  suffering  and 
misery  for  a  little  season  ;  for  eye  hath  not  seen,  nor  ear  heard, 
the  beatitude  which  awaited  the  Jew  who  loved  the  Torah. 
This  was  the  teaching  of  that  group  of  fervid  and  devoted 
men  who,  so  to  speak,  arose  out  of  the  ashes  of  the  ruins  of 
Jerusalem  and  the  Temple.  And  the  sad  remnant  of  the 
people  hearkened  to  this  teaching,  and  with  heart  and  soul 
revered  the  Law,  the  Torah  of  their  God. 

All  this  is  no  mere  rhetoric,  strange  though  it  reads  :  it 
is  plain  unvarnished  history. 

Undismayed    by    the    crushing    ruin    of    A.D.    70,     the 


chief  Rabbinic  leaders,  when  Jerusalem  was  destroyed,  re 
established  their  schools  at  Jamnia  (Jabne),  a  town  close  to 
the  sea,  south  of  Joppa.  They  had  little  sympathy  with  the 
extreme  party  of  Nationalists,  the  Zealots  ;  for  they  saw 
that  any  serious  conflict  with  Rome  was  utterly  hopeless,  so 
they  diverted  the  thoughts  and  aspirations  of  the  survivors 
of  the  great  revolt  into  other  channels.  The  cult  of  the  Law 
henceforward  must  be  the  work  of  Israel.  They  were  wonder 
fully  successful,  and  soon  infused  into  the  heart  of  the  Chosen 
People  something  of  their  burning  zeal ;  for  what  they  taught, 
they  maintained,  were  the  very  words  and  commands  of  the 
Eternal  of  Hosts. 

A  great  master,  Jochanan  ben  Zacchai,  soon  made  the  new 
school  of  Jamnia  a  notable  centre  of  the  new  work.  We  use 
the  term  "  new  "  ;  for  although  Rabbinism  and  the  scientific 
study  of  the  Law  had  existed  long  before  the  events  of  A.D.  70, 
it  received  a  fresh  and  striking  impulse  when  the  Temple  and 
City  existed  no  longer. 

Round  the  chair  of  Jochanan  gathered  quickly  a  band  of 
faithful  disciples  who  shared  in  the  quiet  enthusiasm  of  the 
great  master,  and  in  the  last  twenty-five  or  thirty  years  of 
the  fatal  century  which  had  witnessed  the  terrible  victory 
of  Titus,  the  real  foundations  of  the  Talmud,  which  united 
and  bound  together  the  Chosen  People  for  centuries,  which 
preserved  them  from  disintegration  and  welded  them  once 
more  into  one  great  race,  were  laid. 

Rome  allowed  this  new  spirit  to  grow  up  among  the  rem 
nant  of  the  people  she  had  crushed,  and  made  no  effort  to 
interfere  with  the  Jamnia  Rabbinic  school.  The  statesmen 
of  the  Empire  were  quite  content  that  the  restless  people,  so 
long  a  danger  to  the  State,  should  turn  its  attention  to  other 
matters  unconnected  with  aspirations  after  independence. 
It  was  no  doubt  with  some  contempt  that  they  witnessed  the 
growth  of  the  new  spirit  among  the  turbulent  nation.  It  was 
nothing  to  Rome — this  singular  devotion  to  an  old  Law  and 
a  traditional  revelation  which  the  Jew  considered  divine. 
They  little  thought  that  the  Jew  and  his  ancient  Law  would 
outlive  the  mighty  Empire  of  which  they  were  so  proud, 
and  that  the  despised  and  crushed  race  and  its  cherished 


belief  would  influence  in  a  marvellous  way  the  civilized 
world  for  hundreds  of  years  after  Rome  had  become  the 
mere  shadow  of  a  name. 

The  great  Jewish  revolt  of  A.D.  117  had  little  influence 
upon  the  fortunes  and  wonderful  growth  of  the  Rabbinic 
schools,  the  chief  seat  of  which  was  in  Palestine.  The  scenes, 
of  that  rebellion  and  its  ghastly  punishment  were  far  removed 
from  Palestine,  and  what  happened  in  Cyrene,  Egypt,  and 
Cyprus  only  slightly  affected  the  dwellers  in  the  old  Land  ol 

But  the  next  revolt — the  rebellion  we  have  termed  the 
third  great  Jewish  war — had  a  different  scene.  Once  more 
Palestine  witnessed  a  dangerous  and  bloody  war,  when 
Bar-cochab,  a  mistaken  enthusiast  and  patriot,  raised  again 
the  standard  of  rebellion  against  Rome,  and,  asserting  that 
he  was  the  long-looked-for  Messiah,  gave  this  last  formidable 
Jewish  rising  the  character  of  a  religious  war. 

As  a  rule  the  great  masters  of  the  new  Rabbinic  schools 
were  out  of  sympathy  with  the  Zealots  who  had  risen  against 
Rome  in  this  last  disastrous  revolt  ;  but  one  of  their  number, 
the  famous  Rabbi  Akiba,  curiously  enough,  had  espoused 
their  cause,  and  certain  others  of  the  more  eminent  Rabbinic 
teachers,  no  doubt  owing  to  his  influence,  had  rallied  to 
the  cause  of  Bar-cochab  in  the  desperate  and  hopeless 

Rabbi  Akiba  occupies  among  the  early  group  -of  founders 
of  the  Talmud,  who  flourished  from  circa  A.D.  70  to  circa 
A.D.  190,  perhaps  the  most  prominent  position.  He  was  even 
termed  the  "second  Moses,"  so  sought  after  were  his  teachings 
and  expositions  of  the  sacred  Law,  and  its  subsequent  explana 
tions  and  additions — the  Halachah.  He  gathered  round  him 
not  only  a  host  of  younger  pupils,  but  among  his  disciples 
wrere  numbered  a  group  of  Rabbis  who  became  subsequently 
the  chief  teachers  of  their  day  and  time.  It  has  been  often 
asked  what  induced  this  great  Rabbinic  scholar  and  teacher 
to  throw  in  his  lot  with  a  wild  enthusiast  like  Bar-cochab, 
and  to  support  that  impostor's  baseless  claim  to  be  recog 
nized  as  the  promised  Messiah. 

The  answer  perhaps  is  that  Akiba,  in  common  with  others 


of  the  new  school  of  Rabbinism,  which  aimed  at  restoring 
the  fallen  Judaism  by  means  of  an  enthusiastic  devotion  to 
the  Divine  Law,  recognised  that  in  Christianity  must  be  sought 
and  found  the  most  dangerous  foe  to  the  Rabbinic  conception 
of  the  Chosen  People.  After  the  fall  of  the  City  and  Temple, 
and  the  breaking  up  of  every  national  and  religious  bond, 
there  was  grave  danger  that  the  Jewish  people  would  become 
absorbed  among  the  Gentile  Christians.  It  is  probable  that 
already  some  of  the  Rabbis  were  secretly  persuaded  of  the 
truth  of  the  Gospel  story.  Rabbi  Akiba  was,  however,  one  of 
the  most  energetic  opponents  of  Christianity,  and  he  welcomed 
the  appearance  of  the  pseudo-Messiah  Bar-cochab  as  a  rival 
to  Jesus  of  Nazareth. 

But  great  though  the  influence  of  Akiba  was,  for  he 
persuaded  some  Jews,  he  evidently  did  not  carry  the  bulk 
of  the  Rabbinic  teachers  with  him,  for  the  Talmud  execrates 
the  name  of  Bar-cochab,  though  it  ever  mentions  the  name 
of  Akiba  with  the  deepest  and  tenderest  veneration.  The 
great  learning  and  the  devoted  behaviour  of  the  loved 
teacher  under  the  most  excruciating  tortures  which  accom 
panied  his  execution  by  the  Roman  government,  saved  his 
memory  from  the  bitter  reproaches  with  which  the  Talmud 
speaks  of  Bar-cochab  and  the  authors  of  the  last  ill-fated  and 
useless  revolt.1 

Akiba  is  ever  remembered  as  one  of  the  greatest  of  this 
wonderful  group  of  Talmud  founders,  as  well  as  a  very  noble 

Rabbi  Akiba's  work  was  not  limited  to  exposition  and  ex 
planation  and  elaborate  discussions  in  the  academies  of  the 
traditional  Halachah  or  oral  comments  on  the  Law  of  Moses. 

1  Of  Akiba,  the  Mishnah  tells  us,  as  he  was  in  his  last  agonies,  while  his 
flesh  was  being  torn  with  combs  of  iron,  he  kept  repeating  the  words  of  the 
"  Shema  "  invocation,  "  Hear,  O  Israel,  the  Lord  our  God  is  One."  He 
lingered  over  the  word  One,  and  expired  as  he  uttered  the  word  "  One."  The 
ministering  angels  then  said  before  the  Holy  One,  "  Such  is  Torah  (the  Law), 
and  such  is  its  reward."  Bath  Qol  (the  heavenly  voice)  went  forth  and  said, 
"  Happy  art  thou,  Rabbi  Akiba,  that  thou  art  invited  to  the  life  of  the  world 
to  come.  .  .  ." 

Such  was  the  end  of  Akiba,  the  most  exalted,  most  romantic,  and  most 
heroic  character  perhaps  in  that  vast  gallery  of  the  learned  of  his  time.  The 
most  remarkable  period  of  his  career  may  be  dated  about  A.D.  110-35. 


He  was  virtually  the  first 1  who  attempted  to  codify  and 
arrange  the  vast  accumulation  of  these  Halachah  and  Hag- 
gadah,  and  to  reduce  them  into  something  like  order  and 
arrangement.  Some  years  after  Akiba's  death,  about  the 
middle  of  the  second  century,  his  most  famous  disciple,  the 
Rabbi  Meir,  who  is  known  in  the  Talmud  as  the  "  Light 
of  the  Law,"  took  up  his  master  Akiba's  work,  and  went  on 
with  arranging  and  codifying  the  Halachah,  introducing, 
however,  many  more  Halachah  into  his  codification,  and 
supplementing  and  illustrating  his  expositions  with  many 
interesting  traditions  (Haggadah)  2 ;  thus  preparing  the  way 
for  the  more  elaborate  collection  or  recension  of  Rabbi  Judah 
Ha-Nasi — the  Holy — who  is  known  in  the  Talmud  as  "  Rabbi  " 
— the  Rabbi  par  excellence.  "  Rabbi's  "  great  work  of  codifi 
cation  may  be  dated  about  the  years  A.D.  200-19,  or  there 

The  work  of  "  Rabbi,"  somewhat  enlarged  and  recast, 
is  with  us  still.  It  represents  fairly  the  Mishnah  which 
was  used  as  the  text  of  the  great  Gemara  3  commentaries 
compiled  in  the  schools  of  Palestine  and  Babylonia  4  between 
the  end  of  the  second  century  and  the  last  years  of  the  sixth 
century.  The  Mishnah  of  "  Rabbi,"  which  was  largely 
based  upon  the  collections  of  Rabbi  Akiba  and  his  disciple 
Rabbi  Meir,  and  the  Gemaras  of  Palestine  and  Babylonia,4 
compiled  in  centuries  three,  four,  five,  and  six,  make  up  the 

There  was  a  strict  traditional  interdiction  which  dated 
back  at  least  to  the  centuries  which  followed  the  Return 
from  the  Exile,  if  not  earlier,  against  ever  committing  the 
Halachah  and  the  discussions  of  the  Scribes  upon  the  Halachah 
to  writing.  The  latest  Jewish  scholars  have  decided  that  to 
a  certain  extent  the  interdiction  was  removed  by  "  Rabbi "  in 

1  The  preliminary  work  of  Hillel  in  this  direction  of  arranging  and  codifying 
seems  not  to  have  been  carried  on. 

3  "  Haggadah,"  as  the  better -known  word,  is  substituted  for  the  more 
accurate  plural  form  "  Haggadoth." 

8  For  a  full  definition  of  these  two  famous  terms  Mishnah  and  Gemara,  see 
below,  p.  358,  where  the  terms  in  question  are  explained  at  some  length. 

4  The  Palestinian  Gemara  was  closed  nearly  a  century  and  a  half  before 
the  Babylonian  Gemara  was  completed. 


the  very  early  years  of  the  third  century,  or  at  the  close  of  the 
second  century. 

We  may  assume,  then,  with  tolerable  certainty  that  "Rabbi" 
in  his  old  age  reduced  the  great  collection  of  Halachah  to 
writing,  transgressing,  in  a  way,  the  ancient  tradition  which 
forbade  this.  He  seems  to  have  considered  that  the  prohibi 
tion,  if  maintained  in  its  ancient  strictness,  might  endanger 
the  preservation  of  the  precious  teaching. 

"  Rabbi  "  did  not  entirely  abrogate  the  interdiction,  for  the 
oral  method  of  instruction  continued  during  the  period  of 
the  Gemara  discussions  in  Palestine  and  in  Babylonia  :  the 
teacher  alone  using  the  written  Halachah,  which  made  up  the 
redaction  of  the  Mishnah  by  "  Rabbi  "  as  a  guide  ;  the  pupils, 
however,  always  repeating  the  lesson  orally. 

Before  the  fall  of  Jerusalem  the  great  Sanhedrim  was 
the  ultimate  resort  for  decisions  in  the  Law,  though  it  is  true 
that  as  a  rule  it  accepted  the  Law  as  developed  by  the  great 
teachers  ;  but  still,  "  from  thence,"  i.e.  from  the  Sanhedrim, 
as  the  Mishnah  says,  "  proceeded  the  Law  for  all  Israel." 
But  after  A.D.  70  the  great  Sanhedrim  ceased  to  exist.  This 
of  course  gave  a  very  marked  increase  in  prestige  and  power 
to  the  acknowledged  leading  Rabbis  or  Masters  in  the  Rabbinic 

The  principal  task  of  these  doctors  was  to  teacn  the  Law. 
The  ideal  was  that  every  Israelite  should  have  a  knowledge 
of  this  Divine  Law.  Of  course,  this  ideal  was  unattainable, 
but  the  famous  Rabbis  without  doubt  gathered  round  them 
great  numbers  who  longed  for  special  instruction  in  what  had 
come  to  be  looked  on  as  the  glory  and  hope  of  their  race. 
"  Bring  up  many  scholars  "  was  a  famous  ancient  saying. 

The  instruction  in  the  Palestinian  schools  of  Jamnia  and 
Lydda,  and  a  little  later  more  especially  at  Tiberias,  and  also 
in  the  famous  Babylonian  schools  such  as  Sura,1  Nehardea, 
and  Pumbeditha,  consisted  in  a  continual  exercise  of  the 
memory.  The  oral  Law  before  the  days  of  "  Rabbi,"  at 
the  close  of  the  second  century,  was  never  committed  to 
writing,  the  teacher  repeating  his  matter  again  and  again. 

1  The  Rabbinic  school  of  Sura  was  founded  by  Rab,    one  of  the  most 
important  pupils  of  R.  Judah  Ha-Nasi  (Rabbi). 


This  invariable  method  of  teaching  in  the  Rabbinical  schools 
was  the  origin  of  the  term  Mishnah  (repetition).1 

The  system  of  teaching  was  absolutely  different  from  that 
of  our  modern  colleges  and  universities.  The  masters  of 
the  various  schools  did  not  confine  themselves  to  giving 
lectures  which  the  pupils  could  take  down.  Here  all  was 
busy  life,  excitement,  debate  ;  question  was  met  by  question, 
and  countless  questions  and  answers  were  given,  wrapped 
up  in  allegory,  parable,  and  legend, — of  course  under  the 
guidance  and  direction  of  the  head  of  the  academy. 

1  Mishnah. — A  noun  formed  from  the  verb  "  shanah,"  to  repeat.  In 
post-Biblical  Hebrew  the  verb  "  shanah  "  acquired  the  special  meaning  of 
"  to  teach"  and  "  to  learn"  that  which  was  not  transmitted  in  writing, 
but  only  orally.  Evidently  the  idea  of  frequent  recitation  underlies  the  word. 

Mishnah  signifies  "  Instruction  " — the  teaching  and  learning  the  tradition. 
It  is  the  Law  which  is  transmitted  orally,  in  contrast  to  the  term  Mikra,  which 
signifies  the  Law  which  is  written  and  read. 

The  Halachah,  finally  redacted  by  Judah  Ha-Nasi  the  Holy  (Rabbi), 
circa  A.D.  200-19,  were  designated  the  Mishnah,  and  were  adopted  by  the 
Rabbis  of  the  Gemara  as  the  text  upon  which  they  worked.  This  Mishnah 
of  R.  Judah  the  Holy  was  adopted  simultaneously  by  the  Rabbis  and  Doctors 
of  the  Law  in  the  academies  of  Palestine  and  Babylonia. 

Although  the  Mishnah  may  be  said  to  consist  chiefly  of  Halachah,  it 
contains  several  entire  treatises  of  an  Haggadic  nature — e.g.  "  Aboth,"  "  Mid- 
doth,"  etc. — and  numerous  Haggadic  pieces  are  scattered  here  and  there  among 
the  Halachah.  In  both  the  Talmudim  (the  Palestinian  and  Babylonian) 
there  are  thousands  of  Haggadic  notices  interspersed  among  the  Halachah. 

The  Rabbis  of  the  Mishnah  were  termed  Tannaim  ;  the  earlier  Rabbis  of  the 
Gemara  were  termed  Amoraim. 

The  Rabbinical  headquarters  of  Palestine  and  Babylonia  alike  regarded 
the  study  of  the  Mishnah  as  their  chief  task.  In  Palestine  the  principal 
academies  were  Jamnia  (Jabne),  Lydda,  and  subsequently  Tiberias.  In 
Babylonia  the  principal  seats  of  the  academies  were  Sepphoris,  Nehardea, 
Pumbeditha,  and  especially  Sura. 

Gemara. — The  word  signifies  "  that  which  has  been  learned,"  the  learning 
transmitted  to  scholars  by  tradition  ;  and  in  a  more  restricted  sense  it  came 
to  denote  "  the  traditional  exposition  of  the  Mishnah." 

Talmud  primarily  means  "  teaching,"  though  it  denotes  also  "  learning  "  ; 
practically  it  is  a  mere  amplification  of  the  Mishnah,  the  Talmud  being  made 
up  of  the  Mishnah  and  Gemara. 

Like  the  Mishnah,  the  Talmud  was  not  the  work  of  one  author,  or  of 
several  authors,  but  was  the  result  of  the  collective  labours  of  many  successive 
generations,  whose  task  finally  resulted  in  the  great  and  complex  book  known 
as  the  Talmud. 

The  Palestinian  Talmud  received  its  present  form  in  the  academy  of 
Tiberias;  the  Babylonian  Talmud,  largely  in  the  academy  of  Sura. 


A  most  interesting  picture  of  the  inner  life  and  organiza 
tion  of  the  Rabbinical  schools  or  academies  in  which  the 
Talmud  was  slowly  and  deliberately  composed  is  given  in  the 
vast  and  scholarly  Jewish  Encyclopaedia  (completed  in  the 
year  1906).  A  very  brief  precis  of  this  is  attempted  here. 
The  date  of  the  picture  in  question  is  as  late  as  the  tenth 
century,  and  refers  especially  to  a  comparatively  late  period 
in  the  Rabbinical  work  ;  but  much  of  it  goes  back  to  the  time 
of  the  Amoraim,  the  earliest  Rabbis  of  the  Gemara,  who  were 
the  teachers  from  the  first  part  of  the  third  century. 

It  may  be  taken  as  an  account  and  general  description  of 
the  method  in  which  the  two  versions  of  the  Talmud  were 
composed,  in  Palestine  as  well  as  in  Babylonia,  in  such  academ 
ical  centres  of  Rabbinism  as  Sura  and  Tiberias.  The  picture 
especially  refers  to  the  Babylonian  academies  of  Pumbeditha 
and  Sura,  but  without  doubt  a  very  similar  procedure  was 
followed  in  the  Palestinian  academy  of  Tiberias. 

The  students  or  disciples  appear  to  have  assembled  twice 
every  year,  the  discussion  and  instruction  lasting  four  weeks. 

In  the  month  Elah  at  the  close  of  the  summer,  and  in  the 
month  Adar  at  the  end  of  the  winter,  the  disciples  desiring 
instruction  in  the  sacred  Law  journeyed  to  the  academy, 
say  of  Sura,  or  of  Pumbeditha,  from  their  various  abodes, 
having  carefully  studied  and  prepared  during  the  previous 
five  months  the  special  treatise  of  the  Mishnah  announced 
at  the  academy  at  the  close  of  the  preceding  session  by  the 
head  of  the  Rabbinic  school  as  the  subject  for  discussion  at 
the  next  session. 

They  at  once  presented  themselves  on  arriving  at  Sura 
to  the  head  of  the  academy,  who  proceeded  to  examine  them 
on  the  treatise  of  the  Mishnah  fixed  beforehand. 

They  sat  in  the  following  order  or  rank  :  seventy  of  the 
senior  or  principal  pupils  were  placed  nearest  to  the  head, 
or  president,  of  the  school,  the  number  seventy  being  a 
reminiscence  of  the  great  Sanhedrim. 

Behind  these  seventy  sat  the  other  disciples  and  members 
of  the  academy. 

The  foremost  row — the  seventy — recited  aloud  the  subject- 
matter  of  the  discussion  and  of  instruction  which  were  to 


follow  ;  they  recited,  too,  any  passage  which  seemed  to  require 
especial  consideration,  which  they  debated  among  themselves, 
the  "  head,"  or  president,  all  the  while  silently  taking  notes 
of  the  debate. 

The  "  head  "  after  this  lectured  generally  on  the  treatise, 
the  subject  of  the  discussion,  adding  an  exposition  of  those 
special  passages  which  had  given  rise  to  the  debate. 

Sometimes  in  the  course  of  his  lecture  the  "  head  "  asked 
a  question  as  to  how  the  disciples  would  explain  a  certain 
Halachah.  The  question  had  to  be  answered  by  the 
scholars  he  chose  to  name.  After  the  answer  or  answers  had 
been  received  the  "  head  "  added  his  own  exposition  of  the 
Halachah  in  question. 

Subsequently  one  of  the  "  seventy  "  senior  students  gave  an 
address,  summing  up  the  arguments! which  had  arisen  out  of  the 
theme — the  Halachah — which  they  had  been  considering. 

In  the  fourth  week  of  the  session  the  "  seventy  "  and  other 
of  the  students  were  examined  individually  by  the  "  head  " 
of  the  academy. 

Questions  received  from  various  quarters  were  also  dis 
cussed  for  final  solution.  The  "  head  "  listened,  and  finally 
formulated  his  decisions,  which  were  written  down.  The 
results  of  the  meeting  of  the  academy  during  the  month  of 
session  were  finally  signed  by  the  "  head  "  of  the  academy. 

The  details  and  comments  contained  in  the  foregoing 
sections  of  the  Fifth  Book  ("  The  Jew  and  the  Talmud  ")  are 
mainly  confined  to  the  great  official  work  of  Rabbinic  Judaism 
known  as  the  Talmud,  made  up  of  the  Mishnah  and  its  com 
mentary,  the  Gemara. 

But  besides  this  vast  compilation,  it  must  be  borne  in  mind 
that  there  exists  an  enormous  mass  of  Rabbinic  literature 
outside  the  Talmud,  such  as  the  non-canonical  Mishnah,  the 
Targumim,  the  Midrashim,  the  Kabbala,  etc.  Some  of  this 
dates  from  a  very  early  period,  and  possesses  a  high  authority 
among  the  recognized  Jewish  teachers. 

Most  of  these  extra-Talmudical  writings  are  Haggadic 
in  character. 



All  this  mighty  superstructure  of  "  Mishnah  and  Gemara," 
which  occupied  so  many  of  the  greatest  and  most  earnest 
minds  in  Israel  for  several  centuries,  was  built  up  on  the 
foundations  of  a  Law  (Torah)  recognised  as  given  by 
God  Himself.  The  Books  containing  this  Law  (Torah),  the 
Pentateuch,  were  accepted  as  divine  in  the  course  of  the 
five  centuries  which  intervened  between  the  return  from  exile 
and  the  Christian  era.  The  Pentateuch  at  first  constituted 
the  canon  of  Jewish  Scripture.  Its  acknowledgment,  though, 
no  doubt  dates  from  a  much  older  period — long  before  the  days 
of  the  Exile.  We  do  not,  however,  possess  sufficient  historical 
data  to  define  accurately  the  position  wrhich  the  Law  held 
in  pre-exilic  Israel.  To  the  Pentateuch  was  subsequently 
added  the  writings  of  the  Prophets  and  the  sacred  works 
belonging  to  the  older  pre-exilic  history  of  Israel.  The  canon 
of  Scripture  was  completed  and  acknowledged  much  in  its 
present  form  certainly  200  years  before  the  age  of  Jesus  Christ. 

But  although  the  prophets  and  other  writings  belonging  to 
the  pre-exilic  period  had  been  subsequently  added  to  the 
Torah  (the  Law  of  Moses),  it  is  certain  that  they  never  were 
placed  quite  on  a  level  with  it. 


After  the  question — Wliat  constituted  the  canonical  writings, 
the  Divine  Word  ? — was  finally  and  authoritatively  settled, 
the  next  step  was  to  ensure  the  preservation  of  the  sacred  text 
which  contained  the  Divine  Revelation.  The  Scribes  had 
determined  what  were  the  canonical  books.  The  text  of  these 
books  was  handed  over  to  another  group  of  scholars  known  as 
the  Massoretes.  The  precise  chronology  of  these  various  steps 
is  unknown. 

The  word  "  Massorah  "  comes  from  the  Hebrew  "  Masar," 
to  give  something  into  the  hand  of  another  so  as  to  commit  it 


to  his  trust.  The  work  and  duty  of  the  Massoretes — the 
authoritative  custodians  of  the  sacred  text — was  to  safeguard 
it,  so  as  to  protect  it  from  any  change.  This  they  did  effectu 
ally  by  "  building  a  hedge  round  it."  To  do  this,  they  carefully 
registered  all  the  phenomena  in  the  ancient  manuscripts,  the 
reason  for  and  meaning  of  many  of  which  were  not  understood  ; 
but  they  were  carefully  noted  and  preserved.  Some  words 
were  found  which  had  been  dotted  over  ;  some  were  spelt  wir.h 
large,  some  with  smaller  letters  ;  some  words  and  expressions 
were  archaic,  that  is,  belonging  to  a  much  earlier  date  in  their 
history  ;  some  were  suspended  above  the  line  ;  some  sentences 
contained  peculiar  expressions  :  such-like  phenomena  and 
peculiarities  in  the  ancient  MSS.  were  diligently  recorded  by 
the  Massoretes, — none  were  overlooked. 

Other  textual  notes  were  carefully  made,  such  as  the  number 
of  verses  in  each  sacred  book.  The  middle  verse  and  word  of 
each  great  section  in  each  book  and  even  in  the  whole  Bible  i 
were  also  recorded.  All  important  words  were  noted ;  the 
number  of  times  that  each  letter  of  the  alphabet  occurs  in  each 
division  in  each  book  and  in  the  whole  Bible  were  diligently 
written  down.  All  this,  and  very  much  more  of  such  curious 
statistical  information,  was  registered  by  the  Massoretes  so  as 
to  lock  and  interlock  every  letter,  word,  and  line  into  its  place, 
that  the  original  text  of  the  ancient  MSS.  might  be  preserved 
and  faithfully  reproduced  and  handed  down  by  any  copyist  who 
followed  the  direction  of  the  Massorah. 

That  some  of  this  curious  elaborate  work  was  done,  that 
some  of  this  vast  hedge  l  round  the  Law  was  planted  before 
the  fall  of  the  City  and  Temple  in  A.D.  70,  is  fairly  certain. 
But  there  is  no  doubt  that  the  extremely  complicated  and 
exhaustive  work  of  the  Massoretes  to  ensure  the  preservation  of 
the  ancient  text  was  really  elaborated  and  completed  in  those 
centuries  after  the  Christian  era  when  the  composition  of  the 
Mishnah  and  Gemara  occupied  the  attention  of  the  great 

1  R.  Akiba  (early  second  century)  in  the  Mishnah  treatise  "  Pirke  Aboth  " 
used  to  say,  "Massorah  is  a  fence  to  the  Torah."  This  has  been  generally 
understood  as  a  reference  to  the  Massorah  of  which  we  are  speaking  here.  But 
many  scholars  now  consider  that  R.  Akiba  was  referring  in  this  saying  to 
"  tradition  "  generally,  and  they  understand  the  word  Massorah  as  correlative 
to  "  Kabbala  "  (tradition  in  general),  such  as  is  embodied  in  the  Mishnah. 


Rabbinic  academies  which  arose  after  the  ruin  of  the  City  and 
Temple,  in  Palestine  and  in  Babylonia. 

This  very  brief  sketch  of  the  Massorah  will  give  some  idea 
of  how  exceedingly  precious  in  the  eyes  of  the  Jew  for  many 
centuries  has  been  the  text  of  his  loved  Scriptures. 

We  possess  no  MSS.  of  the  Hebrew  Bible  older  than  the 
first  half  of  the  ninth  century.  The  reason  of  the  non-existence 
of  any  very  ancient  MSS.  is  probably  owing  to  the  fact  of  the 
Jews  being  in  the  habit  of  burying  old  and  worn-out  copies  of 
the  Scriptures  lest  the  worn  material,  the  valuable  parchment 
or  papyrus,  should  be  employed  for  any  secular  purpose. 
The  text  we  now  possess  is,  however,  certainly  that  which  was 
current  in  the  seventh  and  eighth  centuries  of  the  Christian  era, 
and  there  is  little  doubt  that  it  accurately  represents  a  much 
older  text. 

The  Massoretic  notes,  something  of  the  general  purport  of 
which  is  described  above,  are  written  above  and  below  the 
three  columns  into  which  usually  each  page  of  the  MS. 
of  the  Scriptures  is  divided.  These  notes  are  termed  the 
"  Massorah  Magna  "  ;  while  on  the  margin  and  between  the 
columns  are  more  Massoretic  notes.  These  are  termed  the 
"  Massorah  Parva." 

The  composition  of  these  notes,  which  included  every 
phenomenon  of  the  text,  as  well  as  a  vast  number  of  interesting 
statistical  facts  bearing  on  the  text,  went  on  for  well-nigh  a 
thousand  years,  and  eventually  they  amounted  to  an  enormous 
bulk  of  material.  It  became  in  time  absolutely  impossible 
to  write  down  anything  approaching  to  the  whole  of  the 
Massorah  in  any  single  MS.  Hence,  whenever  a  new  copy  of 
the  Scriptures  was  ordered  by  an  individual  or  a  community, 
the  Massoretic  scribes  were  in  the  habit  of  transcribing  only  so 
much  of  the  Massorah  as  they  deemed  of  especial  importance 
and  interest,  or  as  much  of  the  Massorah  as  they  considered  a 
fair  equivalent  for  the  price  paid  for  the  MS.  Thus  it  has  come 
about  that  there  is  no  single  MS.  of  the  Old  Testament  which 
contains  the  whole  or  anything  approximating  to  the  whole 
Massorah.  The  present  scholarly  editor  of  the  Massorah 
(Dr.  Ginsberg)  has  some  seventy-two  ancient  MSS.  of  the  Old 
Testament  collected  in  the  British  Museum,  from  which  he  is 


gathering  the  different  Massoretic  notes  for  the  monumental 
work  on  which  he  is  engaged. 

The  mass  of  material  put  together  by  successive  genera 
tions  of  scribes  is  so  enormous  that  much  of  it  has  been  ever 
gathered  into  separate  treatises  ;  it  having  been  found  in 
old  time  simply  impossible  to  find  space  for  it  in  any  codex, 
although  all  manner  of  abbreviations  and  signs  to  compress 
the  notes  into  a  smaller  compass  have  been  devised  by  the 
ancient  scribes. 

Such  was  the  Massorah,  that  marvellous  and  unique 
apparatus  devised  by  the  Rabbis  for  the  preservation  of  the 
ancient  text  of  the  Scriptures.  A  brief  sketch  showing  the 
estimation  in  which  these  Scriptures,  or  at  all  events  the  Law 
proper,  the  Pentateuch,  was  held  by  the  great  Rabbinical 
schools,  is  indispensable  to  this  little  study  on  the  Talmud. 



We  read  in  the  Mishnah  such  statements  as  the  following  : 
"  He  who  asserts  that  the  Torah  is  not  from  heaven  has 
no  part  in  the  world  to  come."  (Sanhedrim,  x.  7.) 

As  time  went  on  this  view  of  inspiration  was  held  with 
increasing  strictness.  At  first  the  commands  of  "  the  Law  " 
were  all  that  was  signified  in  such  a  saying  as  the  one  just 
quoted,  but  gradually  the  whole  Pentateuch  was  included 
in  this  assertion  of  the  direct  Divine  authority  ;  in  the  Mishnah 
we  read  startling  sayings,  such  as  we  have  already  given,  viz.  : 
'  He  who  says  that  Moses  wrote  even  one  word  of  his  own 
knowledge  is  a  denier  and  despiser  of  the  Word  of  God."  (San 
hedrim,  99.)  Even  the  last  verses  of  Deuteronomy  which 
tell  of  the  death  of  Moses  were  affirmed  to  have  been  written 
by  Moses  himself, — having  been  dictated  to  him  by  Divine 

The  only  point  in  dispute  was  whether  the  whole  Torah 


was  given  to  Moses  by  God  complete  at  once,  or  handed  to 
him  by  volumes.  (Gittin  6oa.) 

In  course  of  time  Divine  inspiration  was  taught  as  belong 
ing  to  the  Prophets  and  the  Hagiographa,  to  the  Mishnah, 
the  Talmud,  and  even  to  the  Haggadah. 

A  very  singular  anticipatory  revelation  was  believed  to 
have  been  made  on  Sinai  to  the  prophets.  In  "  Shemoth 
Rabba  "  we  read  :  "  What  the  prophets  were  about  to  pro 
phesy  in  every  generation  they  receive  from  Mount  Sinai." 
The  revelation  was  apparently  made  to  the  souls  of  those 
about  to  be  created.  And  so  Isaiah  is  represented  as  saying  : 
"  From  the  day  that  the  Torah  was  given  on  Mount  Sinai, 
there  I  was  and  received  this  prophecy, — and  now  the  Lord 
God  and  His  Spirit  have  sent  me."  x 

The  Talmud  contains  a  somewhat  similar  curious  teaching 
as  regards  "  Miracles  "  —the  course  of  creation  was  not  dis 
turbed  by  them,  they  were  all  primarily  existing,  as  well  as 
pre-ordained.  They  were  "  created  "  at  the  end  of  all  things, 
in  the  gloaming  of  the  sixth  day.  Creation,  together  with  these 
so-called  exceptions,  once  established,  nothing  could  be  altered 
in  it.  The  laws  of  nature  went  on  by  their  own  immutable 
force,  however  much  evil  might  spring  therefrom. 


The  wonderful  Jewish  book — the  Talmud — cannot  com 
plain  of  neglect  or  of  oblivion.  Never  has  any  writing  in  the 
whole  human  history  been  so  hated  and  hunted  down.  It 
has  been  proscribed  and  burnt  again  and  again.  Before 
the  marvellous  compilation  was  fully  completed  the  Emperor 
Justinian,  in  A.D.  553,  condemned  it  by  name.  Then  for  more 
than  a  thousand  years  anathemas,  edicts  of  the  sternest 
condemnation,  were  issued  against  the  Jewish  sacred  volume 
which  has  done  so  much  for  the  Chosen  People. 

1  "  It  is  evident  that  some  of  the  '  dicta  '  of  the  Rabbis,  such  as,  for  instance, 
the  above-quoted  passages,  are  not  intended  to  be  taken  literally,  but  are 
the  paradoxes  of  idealists,  which  leave  us  in  some  doubt  as  to  how  much  they 
supposed  to  have  been  revealed  explicitly  to  Moses." — Pirke  Aboth  (Sayings 
of  the  Fathers),  note  by  Dr.  Taylor,  Master  of  S.  John's,  Cambridge,  p.  122. 

Dr.  Taylor,  however,  adds  that  "  such  statements  have  to  be  taken  into 
account  in  estimating  the  ancient  Rabbis'  views  of  revelation." 


Emperors,  kings,  and  Popes  in  all  lands  and  in  every  age 
have  warred  against  it  in  each  succeeding  century.  It  was 
forbidden,  cursed,  often  publicly  burnt. 

To  give  an  average  example  of  the  spirit  with  which  it 
was  universally  condemned  by  Christians,  we  would  refer 
to  a  letter  of  Pope  Honorius  iv  to  the  Archbishop  of  Canter 
bury  (A.D.  1286),  in  which  he  speaks  of  the  Talmud  as  "  that 
damnable  Book,"  desiring  him  "to  see  that  it  is  read  by  no 
one,  since  all  evils  flow  out  of  it." 

At  last,  after  it  had  been  put  out  about  1000  years,  in 
the  dawn  of  the  Reformation  a  great  Christian  scholar  arose 
who  defended  it.  Reuchlin,  the  most  eminent  Hellenist  and 
Hebraist  of  his  time,  remonstrated  against  the  wild  and  ignor 
ant  prejudice  with  which  Christian  men  regarded  this  wonder 
ful  compilation.  Long  and  bitter  was  the  controversy,  but 
the  patient  scholar,  although  formally  condemned  for  his  noble 
advocacy  of  the  great  Jewish  book,  in  the  end  triumphed, 
and  the  Talmud  this  time  was  not  burned  but  printed,  and 
since  Reuchlin's  time  has  been  allowed  to  live  on  unmolested. 
In  our  day  and  time  it  has  come  to  be  regarded  as  one  of  the 
great  works  of  the  world,  although  among  Christian  folk  its 
contents  are  comparatively  unknown  ;  while  its  surpassing 
influence  in  the  past  is  acknowledged  in  the  scholar  com 
munity,  which  recognizes  neither  land  nor  race. 

It  has  been  curiously  suggested  that  the  Talmud  contains 
many  of  the  divine  sayings  of  our  Lord  recorded  in  the  Gospels. 
The  fact  really  is,  that  while  some  few  of  the  beautiful  words 
of  Christ  are  without  doubt  to  be  found  in  the  Talmud,  it  is 
only  such  sayings  as  are  common  to  other  great  teachers  and 
thinkers,  such  as  Seneca  and  the  Emperor  Marcus  Antoninus. 
However,  it  is  more  than  probable  that  the  Child  Jesus  was 
conversant  with  some  of  the  more  striking  maxims  of  the 
early  Rabbis  and  teachers,  such  as  Hillel  and  the  elder  Gamaliel, 
and  that  occasionally  sayings  of  theirs  are  repeated  in  the 
Gospel  teaching.  But  it  is  beyond  all  doubt  that  the  general 
spirit  of  Rabbinism  which  lives  through  the  pages  of  the 
Talmud — in  the  Mishnah  and  Gemara — was  absolutely  at 
variance  with  the  spirit  of  Jesus  Christ  and  His  disciples. 


To  take  two  notable  examples — the  position  of  women  and 
the  exclusive  position  of  Israel.  The  Gospel  teaching  is 
completely  different  on  the  position  of  women  from  what  we 
find  in  the  authoritative  teaching  of  the  Talmud  treatises. 
With  our  Lord  the  woman  was  the  equal  in  all  respects  of  the 
man,  in  this  world  and  in  the  world  to  come.1  The  striking 
inferiority  of  women  in  Israel  is  brought  forward  again  and 
again  in  the  sayings  of  the  great  Rabbis.  We  would  quote 
a  very  few  of  their  authoritative  Talmudical  teachings 
here  :— 

R.  Meir — second  century  (Mishnah)  :  "A  man  is  bound 
to  repeat  three  benedictions  every  day."  One  of  these  was, 
"  Blessed  art  Thou,  Lord  our  God,  who  hast  not  made  me  a 

And  again :  "  Are  not  slaves  and  women  in  the  same 
category  ?  The  slave  is  more  degraded." 

"  Blessed  is  the  man  whose  children  are  sons,  but  luckless 
is  he  whose  children  are  daughters."  (Baba  Bathra.) 

"  The  testimony  of  one  hundred  women  is  only  equal  to 
the  evidence  of  one  man."  (Yevamoth.) 

The  stern  exclusiveness  of  Israel  is  pressed  constantly 
in  the  Talmud.  This  is  diametrically  opposed  to  the  New 
Testament  teaching  so  conclusively  formulated  by  S.  Peter 
(Acts  x.  34,  35)  :  "Of  a  truth  I  perceive  that  God  is  no 
respecter  of  persons,  but  in  every  nation  he  that  feareth  Him 
and  worketh  righteousness  is  accepted  with  Him." 

While  in  the  Talmud  we  read— 

"  Almsgiving  exalte th  a  nation  [that  is,  Israel],  .  .  .  but 
benevolence  is  a  sin  to  nations," — that  is  to  say,  for  the  Gentiles 
to  exercise  charity  and  benevolence  is  sin.  (Compare  Baba 
Bathra,  fol.  10,  col.  2.) 

And  again  :  "  All  Israelites  have  a  portion  in  the  world  to 
come."  (Sanhedrim,  fol.  90,  col.  i.)  "  The  world  was  created 
only  for  Israel ;  none  are  called  the  children  of  God  but 
Israel,  none  are  beloved  before  God  but  Israel."  (Gerim.) 

1  "  For  when  they  shall  rise  from  the  dead  [men  and  women  are  both  alluded 
to]  ...  they  are  as  the  angels  which  are  in  heaven  "  (S.  Mark  xii.  25).  The 
prominent  position  of  women  in  the  early  Church  is  asserted  in  the  "  Gospels  " 
and  "Acts";  they  never  are  alluded  to  as  occupying  an  inferior  place.  See 
below,  p.  380,  for  a  further  note  on  the  position  of  women. 


"  Three  things  did  Moses  ask  of  God  "  :— i.  "  He  asked  that 
the  Shekinah  (the  glory  of  God)  might  rest  upon  Israel." 

2.  "  That  the  Shekinah  might  rest  upon  none  but  Israel." 

3.  "  That  God's  ways  might  be  made  known  unto  him  :  and  all 
these  requests  were  granted."     (Cf.  Berachotk,  fol.  7,  col.  i.) 

Such  teachings  as  these  from  the  Talmud  might  be  multi 
plied  indefinitely. 


The  influence  of  the  Talmud  on  Judaism  has  been  measure 

In  the  second,  third,  fourth,  fifth,  and  part  of  the  sixth 
centuries  which  followed  the  destruction  of  Jerusalem  and  the 
Temple,  the  Rabbinic  schools  of  Palestine  and  Babylonia,  where 
"  the  great  book  "  was  thought  out  and  compiled,  became  for 
the  scattered  people  new  centres,  where  the  old  sacred  learning 
was  not  only  carried  on,  but  made  to  shine  with  a  yet  greater 
splendour — a  splendour  never  possessed  in  any  of  the  ages 
of  its  long  story. 

And  when  the  Book  (the  Talmud)  was  finally  completed 
in  the  sixth  century  it  was  recognized  throughout  the  scattered 
Jewish  people  as  having  put  new  life  and  new  meaning  into  the 
sacred  writings,  which  to  a  certain  extent,  especially  in  the  case 
of  the  Ritual  Law,  naturally,  after  the  fall  of  the  Temple  and  the 
Holy  City,  had  lost  much  of  their  power  and  special  application. 

Then,  as  time  went  on,  "  the  Book  "  became  the  strongest 
bond  of  union  between  the  exiles  of  the  West  and  East ;  be 
tween  the  Jews  of  Rome  and  Constantinople,  of  Alexandria  and 
the  distant  East.  And  later,  when  the  old  Empire  of  Rome  was 
dissolved  and  the  Teutonic  tribes  had  become  masters  of  the 
Western  world,  the  Talmud  was  still  the  bond  of  union  between 
all  the  Jews  of  "  the  Dispersion  "  through  the  Middle  Ages. 

Thus  the  Talmud  has  for  centuries  been  the  link  which 
has  welded  into  one  great  people  all  the  scattered  Jewish  race. 
For  every  professing  Jew  has  felt  that  the  great  compilation 
embodied  all  the  ancient  cherished  traditions  of  the  people,  and 
was  persuaded  that  the  Talmud  in  some  respects  was  equal  to 


the  Bible,  especially  as  a  source  of  instruction  and  decision  in 
the  problems  of  religion. 

It  has  preserved  and  fostered  for  some  fifteen  hundred 
years  in  the  "  Dispersion  "  that  spirit  of  deep  religion  and 
strict  morality  which  has  kept  the  Jewish  people  separate  and 
intact ;  and  be  it  remembered  under  the  most  unfavourable 
external  conditions,  for,  with  certain  rare  exceptions,  since  the 
days  of  the  Emperor  Constantine  and  the  victory  of  Chris 
tianity  the  Jew  has  been  generally  hated,  despised,  persecuted, 
an  exile  and  a  wanderer  over  the  face  of  the  earth. 

In  the  Jewish  race  the  study  of  the  Talmud  has  awakened 
and  stimulated  intellectual  activity  in  an  extraordinary 
degree.  Its  study  has  given  to  the  world  of  letters  a  vast 
number  of  scholars,  men  of  the  loftiest  character,  belonging 
to  the  first  rank  of  philosophers  and  writers,  whose  works, 
limited  though  they  mostly  are  by  the  Rabbinic  area  of 
thought  and  speculation,  have  been  of  high  service  to  civiliza 

Among  these  great  ones  issuing  from  the  Jews  of  no  one 
land,  and  who  form  a  numerous  band,  it  is  difficult  in  this 
brief  study  to  particularize  even  the  most  distinguished, 
but  the  following  names  will  at  once  occur  to  any  competent 
scholar  as  prominent  examples  of  famous  men  of  the  Rabbinic 
school,  whose  works  have  shed  real  light  on  the  so-called  dark 
mediaeval  period  :— 

Raschi  .  .  A.D.  circa  1040-1105 
Maimonides  .  ,,  ,,  1135-1204 
D.  Kimchi .  .  1158-1235 

The  names,  however,  of  distinguished  scholars  and  writers 
of  the  Rabbinic  school  who  have  arisen  during  the  last  fifteen 
centuries  in  different  lands  might  be  multiplied  almost  in 

And  this  people  is  with  us  still,  more  influential,  probably 
more  numerous,  than  at  any  period  of  its  immemorial  history. 
The  numbers  at  the  present  day  are  variously  computed  as 
amounting  to  from  seven  to  eleven  millions. 



But  not  only  among  the  Jewish  peoples  of  the  "  Dispersion  " 
has  this  strange  and  wonderful  book  exercised  a  surpassing 
influence,  but  even  among  the  Christian  nations  of  the  world 
has  its  spirit  percolated,  and  in  a  remarkable  way  has  in 
fluenced  and  coloured  certain  important  phases  of  religious 
thought  and  belief. 

Among  Christian  peoples  the  Talmud  is  virtually  unknown  ; 
to  well-nigh  every  individual  in  the  Christian  nations  it  is  but 
the  shadow  of  a  name,  to  the  great  majority  scarcely  even  that ; 
and  yet  the  profound,  the  awful  reverence  for  the  Old  Testa 
ment  Scriptures  which  lives  among  all  Christian  folk,  a  reverence 
that  often  shades  into  a  passionate  love,  though  they  guess 
it  not, springs  largely  out  of  the  teachings  of  that  great  Rabbinic 
book  the  Talmud,  the  very  name  of  which  so  many  have 
scarcely  heard. 

For  the  Mishnah  and  Gemara  which  make  up  the  Talmud, 
the  thousand  treatises  which  have  been  written  by  learned 
Rabbis  at  different  periods  during  the  last  sixteen  hundred 
years  of  the  Jewish  Dispersion,  are  simply  all  comments  upon, 
explanations  and  developments  of  traditions  and  history 
bearing  upon  the  Old  Testament  Scriptures,  the  one  precious 
heritage  of  the  Jew  handed  down  from  generation  to  generation 
of  the  Chosen  People  from  time  immemorial. 

This  story  of  the  changeless  love  of  the  Hebrew  race  for 
their  ancient  writings  and  records,  which  the  Jew  is  never 
weary  of  reiterating,  came  to  him  direct  from  God  Almighty, 
and  has  found  an  echo  in  unnumbered  Christian  hearts,  and 
so  it  has  come  to  pass  that  the  Old  Testament  Scriptures — the 
Torah  (the  Law)  of  Moses,  the  Prophets,  and  the  other  sacred 
books — are  received  to  this  day  with  a  deep  reverential  love 
as  the  expression  of  the  will  of  the  Eternal  of  Hosts,  alike  in 
Christian  Churches  as  in  the  Jewish  Synagogues.1 

1  Renan  recognizes  the  service  rendered  by  the  Talmudical  Rabbis  to 
Christianity,  but  while  acknowledging  this,  curiously  limits  it  to  the  preserva 
tion  of  the  Hebrew  text  of  the  Old  Testament  Scriptures,  which  he  thinks 
would  probably  have  been  lost  but  for  the  labours  of  the  Rabbis  of  the  Talmud 
— he  characterizes  tliis  as  "  un  service  du  ier  ordre."  To  him  the  Hebrew 



Before  closing  this  little  sketch  of  the  Talmud  and  of 
the  very  early  Rabbinical  writings,  it  will  be  well  to  give 
a  somewhat  more  detailed  explanation  of  one  of  its  more 
important  features,  which  we  have  already  somewhat  lightly 
touched  upon — the  "  Haggadah." 

It  is  not  too  much  to  say  that  the  widespread,  the  lasting 
popularity  of  the  mighty  book  —  the  Talmud  —  is  largely 
owing  to  this  special  kind  of  exposition,  which  includes  the 
Historical,  the  Legendary,  the  Homiletical,  and  the  Comforting. 
It  is  absolutely  peculiar  to  the  Talmud  ;  there  is  nothing 
resembling  it  in  the  official  or  acknowledged  writings  belonging 
to  any  other  religious  system. 

In  the  Exile  and  in  the  lengthened  period  which  directly 
followed  the  Exile,  i.e.  in  the  five  centuries  which  intervened 
between  the  "  Return  from  the  Exile  "  and  the  Christian  era, 
the  Chosen  People  had  learned,  as  we  have  noticed,  to  love 
their  Scriptures  with  a  great  love,  a  love  that  may  be  termed  a 
passion.  It  was  then  that  the  sacred  books  became,  and  for 
long  centuries  remained,  the  centre  of  their  lives.  The  study 
of  these  books,  the  study  which  included  research,  investigation, 
exposition,  application  to  every  event  in  their  lives,  to  every 
possible  contingency  which  might  happen  to  them,  is  known  as 

Legendary  history  which  clustered  round  the  events 
related  in  the  sacred  books,  details  not  chronicled  in  the  text 
of  the  books,  but  carefully  treasured  up,  preserved  and  handed 
down,  circumstances  more  or  less  interesting  and  important 
connected  with  the  lives  of  the  principal  Biblical  personages, 
were  gradually  gathered  together,  were  carefully  sifted  out 
and  discussed  by  the  scribes  and  doctors  of  the  law,  and  if 
finally  received  as  authentic  by  the  great  Jewish  teachers, 

Old  Testament  is  an  incomparable  monument  of  history,  archaeology, 
and  philology.  The  deeper  signification  of  these  sacred  records,  which 
in  the  hearts  of  earnest  Christians  constitutes  their  exceeding  preciousness, 
finds  little  place,  alas,  in  the  cheerless  conception  of  the  brilliant  French 


were  written  down 1  and  handed  on  from  generation  to 

This  work  and  study  especially  connected  with  the  non- 
legal  portions  of  the  Scriptures  known  as  "  Haggadah," 
certainly  received  a  mighty  impulse  in  the  times  of  the  Scribes 
before  the  Christian  era,  and  reached  its  highest  develop 
ment  in  the  famous  Academies  of  Palestine  and  Babylonia 
which  arose  after  the  events  of  A.D.  70.  We  may  roughly 
compute  this  great  period  of  the  development  of  the  "  Hag 
gadah  "  as  reaching  from  A.D.  72-100  to  A.D.  500  or  550.  The 
creative  Haggadic  activity  may  be  said  to  have  ceased  after 
this  last  date. 

Although  "  Haggadic  "  notices  or  comments  appear  not 
unfrequently  in  the  exclusively  legal  section  of  the  Penta 
teuch,  they  belong  more  especially  to  those  Scriptures  which 
treat  of  history,  narrative,  and  teaching — including,  of  course, 
the  prophetic  writings.  In  the  first  instance  the  "  Haggadic  " 
Midrash  confined  itself  to  the  simple  exposition  of  the  Scripture 
text,  but  it  very  soon  developed  into  comments  of  a  very 
varied  nature,  not  unfrequently  into  homilies  inculcating 
religious  truths  and  moral  maxims,  into  disquisitions  on  the 
past  and  future  glories  of  Israel ;  roughly  speaking,  the  "  Hag 
gadah  on  a  passage  or  section  of  the  canonical  Scriptures 
endeavoured,  by  penetrating  beneath  the  mere  literal  sense,  to 
arrive  at  the  spirit  of  the  Scripture  in  question.  In  the  Talmud 
(Sanhedrim  Treatise)  it  has  been  well  compared  to  a  hammer 
which  awakens  the  slumbering  sparks  of  a  rock. 

Legendary  additions,  of  course,  form  an  important  part  of 
the  Haggadah,  but  these  ancient  traditions  or  legends  by  no 
means,  as  some  suppose,  constitute  the  bulk  of  this  vast  and 
wonderful  commentary  on  the  canonical  or  acknowledged 

Among  the  sources  where  we  find  this  curious  Biblical 
literature  which  has  been  a  very  important  link  in  the  Talmud 

1  While  it  is  generally  acknowledged  that  the  decisions  arrived  at  in  con 
nection  with  the  Law  of  Moses  termed  "  Halachah  "  were  transmitted  orally, 
certainly  until  the  time  of  R.  Judah  the  Holy,  known  as  Rabbi  (end  of  second 
century),  the  "  Haggadic "  decisions  here  alluded  to  were  committed  to 
writing  at  a  much  earlier  date. 


chain  which  has  been  the  great  bond  of  union  of  the  scattered 
Jewish  race  for  so  many  centuries,  of  course  primarily  must  be 
reckoned  the  Mishnah  and  the  two  Gemaras,  the  Palestinian 
and  the  Babylonian,  which  constitute  the  Talmud.  Here  are 
found  many  of  those  "  Haggadic  "  comments  which  naturally 
are  regarded  with  the  deepest  reverence,  as  they  have  received 
the  seal  of  approval  of  the  doctors  of  the  great  Academies  of 
Sura,  Pumbaditha,  and  Tiberias,  who  flourished  in  the  early 
centuries  of  the  Christian  era. 

But  there  are  "  Haggadic  "  notices  of  great  antiquity  and 
in  still  larger  numbers  preserved  in  writings  which  form  the 
non-canonical  Mishnah,  works  subsidiary  and  auxiliary  to  the 
Mishnah  proper,  some  of  which  even  date  from  the  second  and 
third  century  or  even  earlier,  and  have  ever  possessed  among 
the  learned  Jews  a  very  high  authority.  For  example,  in  the 
Targums  (Targumim)  are  very  many  pieces  of  an  "  Haggadic  " 
nature,  not  a  few  evidently  of  a  remote  antiquity  and  of  the 
highest  interest. 

It  is,  of  course,  impossible  in  the  limits  of  such  a  brief  sketch 
of  so  vast  a  subject  to  give  any  adequate  illustration  of  this  vast 
collection  of  Haggadah ;  we  will  simply  quote  two  or  three 
examples  taken  from  the  Palestine  Targum  on  the  Torah  on 
the  Book  of  Deuteronomy,  where  the  original  text  is  expanded 
by  words  of  tradition  or  legend,  by  homiletics,  by  words  of 
teaching,  of  comfort  and  encouragement. 

From  the  Palestine  Targum  on  the  Torah  (Deuteronomy 
chap,  xxxiii.).  "  And  he  (Moses)  said  :  The  Lord  was  revealed 
at  Sinai  to  give  the  law  unto  His  people  of  Beth  Israel,  and 
the  splendour  of  the  glory  of  His  Shekinah  arose  from  Gebal 
to  give  itself  to  the  sons  of  Esau  ;  but  they  received  it  not. 
It  shined  forth  in  majesty  and  glory  from  Mount  Pharan,  to 
give  itself  to  the  sons  of  Ishmael ;  but  they  received  it  not. 
It  returned  and  revealed  itself  in  holiness  unto  His  people  of 
Israel,  and  with  Him  ten  thousand  times  ten  thousand  holy 
angels.  He  wrote  with  His  own  right  hand,  and  gave  them 
His  law  and  His  commandments,  out  of  the  flaming  fire." 

"  And  he  saw  at  the  beginning  that  a  place  had  been 


prepared  there  for  a  sepulchre,  a  place  strewn  with  precious 
stones  and  pearls,  where  Mosheh  the  prophet,  the  scribe  of 
Israel,  was  to  be  hidden,  (who)  as  he  went  in  and  out  at  the 
head  of  the  people  in  this  world,  so  will  he  go  in  and  out  in 
the  world  to  come  ;  because  he  wrought  righteousness  before 
the  Lord,  and  taught  the  orders  of  the  judgments  to  the  sons 
of  Israel." 

'  There  is  no  God  like  the  God  of  Israel,  whose  Shekinah 
and  Chariot  dwell  in  the  heavens.  He  will  be  your  helper. 
He  sitteth  on  His  glorious  throne  in  His  majesty,  in  the  expanse 
of  the  heavens  above.  The  habitation  of  Eloha  is  from 
eternity  ;  by  the  arm  of  His  power  beneath  the  world  is  up 
borne.  He  will  scatter  your  adversaries  before  you,  and  will 
say  by  His  Word,  Destroy  them.  And  Israel  shall  dwell 
safely  as  of  old  according  to  the  benediction  with  which  Jakob 
their  father  did  bless  them,  for  whose  righteousness'  sake  He 
will  cause  them  to  inherit  the  good  land  that  yieldeth  corn  and 
wine  ;  the  heavens  also  above  them  will  drop  with  the  dews 
of  blessing  and  the  rains  of  loving-kindness.  Happy  are  you, 
O  Israel :  who  of  all  the  nations  are  like  you,  a  people  saved 
in  the  Name  of  the  Word  of  the  Lord  ?  He  is  the  shield  of 
your  help,  and  His  sword,  the  strength  of  your  excellency." 

From  Deuteronomy  chap,  xxxiv.  "  Blessed  be  the  Name 
of  the  Lord  of  the  world,  who  hath  taught  us  His- righteous 
way.  He  hath  taught  us  to  clothe  the  naked,  as  He  clothed 
Adam  and  Hava  (Eve)  ;  He  hath  taught  us  to  unite  the 
bridegroom  and  the  bride  in  marriage,  as  He  united  Hava  (Eve) 
to  Adam.  He  hath  taught  us  to  visit  the  sick,  as  He  revealed 
Himself  to  Abraham  when  he  was  ill  from  being  circumcised  ; 
He  hath  taught  us  to  console  the  mourners,  as  He  revealed 
Himself  again  to  Jakob  when  returning  from  Padan  in  the 
place  where  his  mother  had  died.  He  hath  taught  us  to  feed 
the  poor,  as  He  sent  Israel  bread  from  heaven ;  He  hath 
taught  us  to  bury  the  dead  by  (what  He  did  for)  Mosheh  ; 
for  He  revealed  Himself  in  His  Word,  and  with  Him  the 
companies  of  ministering  angels  :  Michael  and  Gabriel  spread 
forth  the  golden  bed,  fastened  with  chrysolites,  gems,  and 



beryls,  adorned  with  hangings  of  purple  silk,  and  satin,  and 
white  linens.  Metatron,  Jophiel,  and  Uriel,  and  Jephephya, 
the  wise  sages,  laid  him  upon  it,  and  by  His  Word  conducted 
him  four  miles,  and  buried  him  in  the  valley  opposite  Beth 
Peor  ; — that  Israel,  as  oft  as  they  look  up  to  Peor,  may  have 
the  memory  of  their  sin  ;  and  at  the  sight  of  the  burying-place 
of  Mosheh  may  be  humbled  ;  but  no  man  knoweth  his  sepulchre 
unto  this  day." 

A*  P 

He,  watch-ing  o  -  ver     Is  -  ra  -  el,  slum-bers  not,  nor   sleeps. 
(From  Mendelssohn's  Oratorio,  "  Elijah.") 

(B)  ON  THE  "  HALACHAH  "  AND  "  HAGGADAH  " 

We  would  add  a  few  words  further  explanatory  of  the 
Halachah.  The  Halachic  Midrash  (or  exegesis  and  develop 
ment  of  the  passages  of  the  Law)  dealt  with  the  exact  purport 
of  the  various  Divine  commands  contained  in  the  Torah,  or 
Law  of  Moses.  It  explained  in  detail  how  these  precepts  were 
to  be  carried  out  in  common  life.  It  professed  to  be  nothing 
more  than  an  exposition  of  the  original  Law  ;  but  in  reality 
it  contained  vast  additions  to  what  was  written  in  the  Books 
of  Moses,  and  claimed  to  possess  an  equal  authority  with  the 
original  charges  contained  in  the  Pentateuch. 

Roughly,  these  so-called  Halachic  developments  were 
divided  into  three  classes  or  categories — 

1.  Halachah  or  commands  traced  back  to  Moses. 

2.  A    great   mass   of    Halachah — containing    traditional 

ordinances  professedly  based  on  the  original  Mosaic 
commands,  but  in  reality  connected  with  the  Mosaic 
ordinances  by  the  very  slightest  of  ties.  ' 

3.  A  number  of  enactments  really  only  emanating  from 

the  schools  of  the  Scribes,  but  which  were  taught  to 
be  equally  binding  with  the  original  Pentateuch 
ordinances.  These  Halachah  largely  dated  from 
the  years  which  preceded  the  Christian  era  ;  they 
were,  in  the  last  half  of  the  first  century  and  during 
the  second  century,  codified  and  arranged  in  the 

The  general  purport  of  the  Halachic  Midrash,  which  con 
tains  the  rule  of  Israelitic  life  and  which  so  long  occupied  the 
Scribes  and  their  schools,  was  very  largely  connected  in  the 
first  place  with  the  elaborate  network  of  sacrifice,  and  the 

usages  which  followed  and  preceded  the  many  and  complicated 



various  offerings.  The  Halachah  might  fairly  be  called  The 
Law  and  Rule  of  Jewish  Ritual.  Its  subject-matter  has  been 
well  and  tersely  summed  up  as  follows  :  The  Halachic 
Midrash  sought  to  establish,  by  laws  which  were  absolutely 
binding  on  every  true  Jew,  the  manner  in  which  God  desires 
to  be  honoured ;  what  sacrifices  are  to  be  offered  to  Him, 
what  feasts  and  fasts  are  to  be  kept  in  His  honour,  and  gener 
ally  what  religious  rites  are  to  be  observed  by  the  people. 
Other  questions  are,  however,  discussed  and  resolved  in  the 
Halachah,  but  these  other  points  fill  after  all  a  comparatively 
small  space  in  the  great  legal  commentary  or  ritual  which 
occupies  so  important  a  place  in  the  vast  Talmud  compilation. 


The  writer  of  the  foregoing  "  study  "  feels  that  a  sadly 
incomplete  picture  of  the  "  Haggadah,"  the  popular  division 
of  the  Talmud,  has  been  painted.  A  few  more  remarks  on 
this  singular  and  important  portion  of  the  Talmud  are  given 
by  way  of  further  elucidation  of  this  strange  form  of  exegesis 
(Midrash)  of  the  Holy  Scriptures. 

We  have  already  stated  that  broadly  the  "  Halachic  " 
Midrash  or  exegesis  belongs  especially  to  the  Books  of  the 
Pentateuch,  and  the  "  Haggadic  "  Midrash  rather  to  the 
other  Books  of  the  Old  Testament  writings. 

But  even  in  the  Pentateuch,  narrative  and  history  occupy 
a  wide  space,  and  in  the  Pentateuch  Midrash  we  find  too  a 
mass  of  Haggadic  commentary  on  the  narrative  and  historic 
portions  of  the  five  Books  of  Moses. 

Here  the  "  Book  of  Jubilees  "  (century  i)  may  be  quoted 
as  a  striking  instance  of  early  Haggadic  Midrash  or  exegesis 
of  Scripture.  It  reproduces  the  Book  of  Genesis,  and  curi 
ously  amplifies  and  largely  supplements  the  original  text. 

Dwelling  on  the  history  of  Creation,  the  Haggadic  scribe 
tells  us  how  "  in  the  twilight  on  the  evening  before  the  first 
Sabbath,  ten  things  were  created — (i)  The  chasm  in  the 
earth,  in  which  Korah  and  his  company  were  swallowed  up. 
(2)  The  opening  of  Miriam's  well.  (3)  The  mouth  of  Balaam's 
ass.  (4)  The  Rainbow.  (5)  The  Manna  of  the  Wilderness. 


(6)  The  famous  Shamir,  the  worm  which  splits  stones,  tradi 
tionally  used  in  the  making  of  the  Tabernacle  and  its  furniture. 

(7)  The  Rod  of  Moses.     (8)  Alphabetic  writing.     (9)  The  writ 
ing  of  the  Tables  of  the  Law.     (10)  The  stone  tables  on  which 
the  Ten  Commandments  were  written." 

The  devout  student  of  the  Old  Testament  will  read  with 
deep  interest  the  above-quoted  reference  to  the  purely  Hag- 
gadic  passage  taken  from  the  "  Book  of  Jubilees,"  in  which  an 
allusion  is  made  to  the  ass  who  reproved  Balaam. 

This  is  one  of  the  recitals  in  the  Old  Testament  Scriptures 
which  has  ever,  for  various  reasons,  been  a  difficulty,  when 
regarded  as  a  piece  of  actual  history.  Its  appearance  in  the 
"  Book  of  Jubilees  "  among  other  evidently  Haggadic  or  purely 
legendary  amplifications  of  the  original  text,  suggests  that 
even  in  the  Pentateuch  the  inspired  compiler  has  occasionally 
introduced  in  his  narrative  details  which  in  the  opinion  of  the 
very  early  Scribes  belonged  evidently  to  the  realm  of 
Haggadah  or  legend. 

In  the  Haggadah  of  the  Pentateuch  a  vast  cycle  of  legends 
accompanies  the  original  Genesis  account  of  famous  heroes 
of  Israelitic  history,  such  as  Adam,  Enoch,  Abraham,  Moses, 
and  Aaron. 

A  good  specimen  of  Haggadic  legendary  amplification  is 
given  above  in  the  extract  from  the  Jerusalem  Targum  on 
Deut.  xxxiv.,  where  the  death  of  Moses  and  the  circumstances 
attending  his  burial  are  related.  Again,  one  of  the  canonical 
writings  of  the  Old  Testament,  the  Book  of  Chronicles,  is  a  fair 
example  of  the  less  fanciful  Haggadic  historical  Midrash.  Here 
the  compiler  of  the  book  in  question  adds  to  the  original 
record  of  the  Jewish  kings  a  number  of  details  not  found  in 
the  Books  of  Kings  and  in  the  older  histories  of  Israel. 

The  Haggadah  specially  enlarges  at  great  length,  and  with 
much  detail,  the  passages  which  even  remotely  refer  to  the 
future,  to  the  angels,  and  to  the  heavenly  world  ;  it  amplifies 
all  the  mystic  sections  which  deal  with  the  glory  of  the  Eternal, 
such  as  the  "  chariot  "  of  Ezekiel,  that  wonderful  introductory 
vision  of  his  great  prophecy. 

Even  in  the  New  Testament  Epistles  and  in  the  "  Acts," 
Haggadic  influence  is  noticeable  in  several  well-known  pas- 


sages ;  for  instance,  in  S.  Paul's  2nd  Epistle  to  Timothy  iii.  8, 
the  names  of  the  Egyptian  magicians  Jannes  and  Jambres, 
which  do  not  appear  in  the  Genesis  history,  are  given.  A  still 
more  remarkable  example  of  Haggadic  influence  is  the  singular 
legendary  account  of  the  Rock  in  i  Cor.  x.  4,  where  the  rock 
from  which,  at  Moses'  bidding,  the  water  gushed  forth  is  repre 
sented  as  positively  accompanying  the  Irsaelites  during  their 
desert  wanderings.  Again,  in  Acts  vii.  53,  Gal.  iii.  19,  Heb.  ii.  2, 
the  Law  is  represented,  not  as  given  to  Moses  by  God  Himself, 
as  related  in  the  Pentateuch,  but  as  reaching  him  through  the 
medium  of  angels. 



Among  the  disabilities  of  the  women  1  of  Israel  nothing  is 
more  remarkable  than  the  position  they  occupied  in  the  public 
services  of  the  congregation.  The  Inner  Court  of  the  Temple, 
within  which  the  whole  of  the  official  \vorship  was  celebrated 
was  divided  by  a  wall  into  two  divisions — a  Western  and  ar 
Eastern.  The  latter  (the  Eastern) — the  more  remote  from  the 
Temple  proper — was  called  "  the  Court  of  the  Women,"  not 
however  because  none  but  women  were  admitted  to  it,  but 
because  women  as  well  as  men  were  allowed  to  enter  it. 

The  Western  division  was  reserved  exclusively  for  men  ;  in 
this  division  stood  the  Temple  proper,  including  the  Holy 
Place  and  the  Holy  of  Holies. 

In  front  of  the  Temple,  to  the  West,  stood  the  great  altar 
of  burnt-offering,  at  which,  except  in  the  matter  of  incense- 
burning,  every  act  of  sacrifice  had  to  be  performed.  In  this 
Western  division  of  the  Inner  Court  the  victims  were 
slaughtered.  The  Temple  itself  with  the  great  altar  of  burnt- 
offering  was  again  surrounded  by  an  enclosure,  within  which 
as  a  rule  none  but  priests  might  enter.  This  enclosure  was 
sometimes  called  the  Court  of  the  Priests. 

The  men  of  Israel,  however,  being  admitted  into  the 
Western  division  of  the  Inner  Court,  were  spectators  of  and 
so  assisted  at  the  sacrifices  offered  on  the  great  altar,  from 
which  they  were  only  separated  by  the  enclosure — into  which, 
however,  in  certain  circumstances,  they  were  admitted. 

But  the  women  were  never  allowed  to  enter  the  Western 
division  of  the  Inner  Court — never  might  pass  the  wall  of  separa 
tion — never  as  it  were  assist  at  the  sacrifices  and  the  solemn 
ritual  of  the  great  altar  which  stood  at  the  Western  entrance 
of  the  Temple. 

T  See  on  page  367  for  further  details  on  the  position  held  by  women  in  Israel. 



"  ABOTH,"  treatise,  358  w.  I 

Acilii  Glabriones  family,  Crypt  of,  265, 
267,  268-9,  270-1  ;  was 
Pudens  a  member  of?  270 

Acilius  Glabrio,  Consul,  martyrdom 
of,  41-2,  230-1,  269 

Acta  Sincera,  of  Ruinart,  on  Martyrdom 
of  Theban  legion,  148  n.  I 

Acts  of  the  Apostles,  Haggadic  influence 
seen  in,  379  ;  model  of,  72  ; 
on  Christian  assemblies, 
107 ;  on  S.  Paul's  prison 
life  at  Rome,  22  ;  on  status 
of  women,  367  n.  I 

Acts  of  S.  Cecilia,  in  the  light  of  cata 
comb  discoveries,  289  et  seq. 

Acts  of  S.  Hermes,  274 

Acts  of  Martyrdom,  or  Acts  and  Passions 
of    the     Martyrs,     archaeo 
logical   and    literary   corro- 
boration  of,  81,  82,  94  CT°«.  I 
Critical  estimates  of,    81   &nn.,  82, 


Few  in  early  days,  33,  35,  48,  53 
Pagan  contempt  shewn  in,  158 
Value      of,      in      exploring      Cata 
combs,  226 

on  Numbers  of  Christians,  104 
on  Persecutions,  163 

Acts  of  the  Martyred  Slaves,  136 

Acts  of  the  Passion  of  S.  f  elicit  as,  299  ; 
authenticity  of,  300,  304 

Acts  of  Pastor  and  Timotheus,  tradi 
tion  in,  on  Pudens  and  his 
family,  263-5 

Acts  of  S.   Valentinus,  276 

^Elia  Capitolina,  site  of,  77  ;  insults  at, 
to  Christians,  78  ;  results  of 
building,  332,  335-6  et  seq. 

/Elius  Verus,  adopted  by  Hadrian,  83 

/Eneas,  piety  of,  87 

/Eneid,  teaching  of,  88 

Africa   (see  Carthage,  see  also  Egypt), 

Christian  congregations  in, 

mid-second  century,  36 

Agaunum    (S.     Maurice),    Martyrdom 

legend  concerning,  148  n.  I 

Agrippa,  builder  of  Pantheon  por 
tico,  280 

Akiba,  Rabbi,  eminence  of,  and  of  his 

pupils,  337,  354-6 
Fate  of,  355  &>  n.  I 
Supporter  of  Bar-cochab,  78,  336-7 
on  Massorah,  362  n.  I 

Alcuin,  278 

Aldus  Manutius,  supporting  Pliny's 
letter,  46 

Alemanni,  death  of,  283 

Alexander,  son  of  S.  Felicitas,  tomb 
of,  259 

Alexandria,  Jewish  revolts  in,  330, 
334~5>  346  5  literary  support 
from,  of  Petrine  tradition, 
10,  13  ;  plague  of,  155  n.  2 

Alexandrian-Jewish  influences  in  Re 
velation  of  S.  John,  72 

Allard,  — ,  on  Acilius  Glabrio,  269  ;  on 
Archaeology  as  rehabilitating 
legend,  289 ;  on  Jewish 
fecundity,  first  century,  in 
Rome,  5  «.  I  ;  on  the  Jews 
in  the  Augustan  age,  4 ; 
on  Nero's  persecution  and 
popular  disgust,  42  n.  2 ; 
on  the  Martyrdom  of  the 
Theban  legion,  148  n.  I  ; 
on  Pliny's  letter,  46 ;  on 
S.  Peter's  arrival  in  Rome, 
ign.  i  ;  on  Trajan's  person 
ality,  48 

Translation   by,    of  the    Epitaph   of 
Pope  Damasus,  215  n.  I 

Almsgiving,  in  the  early  Church,  113, 
119-22,  123,  130  et  seq., 
138,  139 

America,  Civil  War  of,  cause  of,  135  n.  I 

Amoraim,  the,  345,  358  n.  I,  359 

Amphitheatre  games,  horrors  of,  50 ; 
Martyrdoms  in,  no,  172, 
175-6 ;  training  of  Christians 
for,  198 

Ampliatus,  Chapel  or  Crypt  of,  Domi- 

tilla  Cemetery,  240 
Tomb  of,  identification  of,  241-2 



Anacletus,  Pope,  cemetery  of,  287 ; 
discoveries  in,  seventeenth 
century,  280  et  seq. 
Memoriae  erected  by,  over  tombs  of 
SS.  Peter  and  Paul,  233, 
237,  281  efsey. 

Ananias  and  Sapphira,  gift  of,  volun 
tary,  1 20  n.  i 

Anchor,  as  Christian  Emblem,  310 

Angels,  Haggadic  references  to,  378,  379 

Animals,  wild,  in  amphitheatre  games,   j 
exposure  to,  of  Christians,    j 
&c.,   175-6,  178,   183,   185, 
187,  191,  203,  204,  269 

Anniversaries    of    Martyrs,    first    cele-  | 
brated,  35 

Antioch  (see  a/so  Ignatius),  literary 
support  from,  of  Petrine 
tradition,  9,  13 

Antipas,  martyr,  169 

Antonines,  the  (see  also  Antoninus  Pius 
and  Marcus  Aurelius),  reigns 
of,  63,  characteristics  of,  84 
et  seq.  ;  table  of  succession 
of,  83 

Antonins,  Les,  by  De  Champagny,  on 
Hadrian's  character,  77  ;;.  I ; 
on  the  number  of  Jews 
slain  in  the  last  wars,  338 
dr'n.  2 

Antoninus  Pius,  186,  277,  adopted  by, 
and  successor  to,  Hadrian, 
83,  family  and  character  of, 
83,  84,  85 

Attitude  of,  to  Christians,  158,  ignor 
ance  of  their  faith,  77 
Coinage  of,  87,  90 
Persecutions  by,  and  reasons  for,  33, 
80,  81,  84,  91-3,  95,   137, 
163  «.  2,  194,  207 
Relations  of,  with  Hadrian,  83,  85 

Apocalypse  of  S.  John,  72  ;  place  of,  in 
early  Christian  thought,  156- 
7  ;  references  in,  to  Perse 
cution,  37,  157,  165, 167-70 

Apologies,      The,     of    Justin     Martyr, 

128,  184 

on  Assemblies,  108,  113-4 
on  Persecution,  185-6 

Apology  of  Aristides,  on  Burial  of  the 
dead  by  Christians,  132, 
133  ;  on  Christian  charity, 
124  &°n.  i,  126,  130,  138  ; 
on  Christians  as  civil  judges, 
148  ;  on  Hospitality,  128,  on 
Slavery,  135 

Apology,  or  Embassy,  of  Athenagoras, 
on  Persecution,  188-9 

Apology  of  Tertullian,  and  the  Octavius 
of  Minucius  Felix,  186 

Apostasy,  encouraged  by  Roman  rulers, 
I95>  197  J  Hermas  on,  181  ; 
results  of,  197,  203  ;  some 
causes,  201 

Apostolical  Constitutions,  The,  on 
Almsgiving,  122  ;  on  Hos 
pitality,  128 

Apostolic  Fathers,  writings  of,  cast  in 
Letter  form,  73 

Apostolic  Fathers,  by  Lightfoot,  cited  on 
Pliny's  Letters,  46  n.  I  ; 
on  S.  Hippolytus,  251 

Apostolic  remains,  authors  and  form 
°f>  73  >  characteristics  and 
special  value  of,  ib.,  meant 
for  publication,  74  Sfn.  I 

Apronienus,  catacomb  of,  248 

Aquila  and  Priscilla,  associations  of, 
with  S.  Paul,  and  with 
Pudens,  265-6  ;  burial-place 
of,  262,  266;  church 
founded  by,  262 

Arch  of  Titus,  witness  of,  333  &>n.  I 

Archaeological  Relics  of  S.  Peter,  Chair, 
and  place  of  baptism,  12 

Archaeology,  witness  of,  to  literature 
and  tradition  (see  also  Cata 
combs),  17,  19  n.  i,  Si,  82, 
108,  147,  152  n.  i,  209  et 
seq.,  289,  295,  298,  304 
to  Pagan  and  Christian  views  on 

Death,  154-5 

to   Social   Status    of    many    early 
Christians,  111-2 

Arenaria,  in  Jordani  catacomb,  260 

Aristides,  see  Apology  of,  supra 

Aristotle,  works  of,  146 

Aries,  Church  of  S.  Hippolytus  at,  255 

Armellini,  Prof.,  on  Inscription  con 
cerning  S.  Agnes,  256-7  ; 
Ubaldi's  memoranda  pub 
lished  by,  281  ;  work  of,  in 
Catacomb  exploration,  239 

Army,  Christians  in,  148  cr«.  i 

Arnold,  Matthew,  on  the  Good  Shep 
herd  with  the  Kid,  320 

Arsacius,  Letter  to,  from  Emperor 
Julian,  on  Christian  char 
acteristics,  12377.  i,  128,  131 

Arval  Brotherhood,  College  of,  236 ; 
M.  Aurelius  a  member, 
95  «.  i 

Asia,  Christian  congregations  in,  mid- 
second  century,  36 

Asia  Minor  (see  also  Antioch,  &c.),  71 
Christianity  in  ( see  also  Pliny's  Letter), 
founder,     and     effects    on 
Paganism,   and   spread    of, 

5i»  107 
S.  John's  prominence  in,  9 



Assemblies,  Christian,  composition  of, 

110-12,  113,  114,  240,  242 

Importance    of,    101,   evidenced    in 

literary  references,  107-9 
Joy  in,  155 

Places   where    held    (see   also   Cata 
combs),  139 
Proceedings  at,  various  writers  cited, 

113  et  seq. 

References    to,    in   N.T.    and    later 
writers,Christian  and  Pagan, 
107  et  seq. 
Sunday,    108,   observance   of,   Justin 

Martyr  on,  113-4 

Teaching,  doctrines  and  ritual  at,  101, 
113  et  seq.,  124,  126, 
128-30,  131-3,  138,  139 

Astolphus,  293 

Athenagoras,  319  n.  i,  on  Persecu-  : 
tions,  188-9 

Attire,  Rigourist  teaching  on,  I53~4 

Aube,  on  the  Acts  of  S.  Felicitas,  300  ;   | 
on  Domitian's   persecution,    • 
42   n.  2  \    on    Trajan's  Re 
script,  49 

Augustus  Caesar,  9 1 ,  280  ;  attitude  of,  to  j 
Imperial  cultus,  42  ;  favour  j 
shown  by,  to  the  Jews,  3  ;  j 
and  the  source  of  Rome's  ' 
greatness,  88,  89 

Ausonius,  poems  of,  64 

Autolycus,  letters  or  books  to,  from  Theo-  , 
philusof  Antioch,  108-9,  189  '• 

Auvergne,  66 

Aventine  Hill,  church  on,  262  ;  house, 
&c.,  of  Pudens  on,  12,  15 

Avitus,  made  Emperor,  65 

BABA-BATHRA       treatise,       in      the  : 

Talmud,  343  ;/.  I 

Babylon,  mystic  name  for  Rome,  8, 10, 14 
Babylonia  (see  also  Exile),  Jews  in,  346    I 
Rabbinic    Schools   of,    326,    362-3, 

368,  373 
Chief,  358  n.  i 

Mode  of  teaching  in,  357,  358-60 
Work  of,  344,  345,  346,  372 
Babylonian  Gemara,  the,  356  &°  n.  4 
Talmud,  the,  345,  Haggadic  notices 

in,  358  n.  I 

Baix,  death  at,  of  Hadrian,  83 
Balaam  and  his  ass,  Haggadah  on,  377,   i 


Balbina,  tomb  of,  247 
Baptisteries   (see  also  Wells)  in   Cata-   \ 
combs    of    Pontianus,    and   ' 
S.  Priscilla,  236 

Baptistery  of  S.  Peter,  site  of,  identified 
by  Manicchi,  12,  257,  267,    i 

Barberini  (Pope  Urban  vm),  epigram 

on,  280 
Bar-cochab,    false    Messiah,   cause    of 

last  war  of  the  Jews,  336-7  ; 

his    Rabbinical    supporters, 

78,  336-7,  354,  355 
Barnabas,  Epistle  of,  see  Epistles 
Barnes,  — ,  cited  on   Neronic  burning 
of  Christians,    285-6  ;     on 
S.    Peter's  tomb,  281  &  n. 
et  seq. 

Baronius,    Cardinal,    263,    present    at 
finding     of      S.      Cecilia's 
body,  294  &»«.  I,  297  ;   on 
S.  Petronilla,  277 
Basil  of  Cappadocian  Qesarea,  138 
Basilicas : — 
of  S.  Lawrence  "ad  Corpus,"  Popes 

buried  in,  250 
Domitilla,  278 
Prretextatus,  247 
SS.  Hermes  and  Basilissa,  274-5 
in    Coemeterium    Majus,     subterran 
ean,  258 
in  Rome,  third  century  number  and 

appointments  of,  112 
Ruined,  crypts  beneath,  228 
of  S.  Agnes,  256-7 
of  S.  Cecilia,  292,  293  et  seq. 
of  S.  Felicitas,  302 
of  S.  Hippolytus,  251,  254 
of  S.  Laurence,  250,  254 
of  S.  Sylvester,  burials  in,  266  & 

n.  i,  272 

When  and  why  erected,  272 
Benson,    Archbishop,    on    S.    Cyprian, 

122  &n.  i,  127  n.  i 
Bernini,  Baldachino  by,  in  S.    Peter's, 
discoveries   on  erection   of, 
233  ;/.  i,  2Soetsetj. 
Bethel,  the  old  prophet  of,  321 
Bethia,  Zealot  head-quarters,  336 
"  Billicum    confessionis,"     nature    of, 

that  of  S.  Peter,  237,  282 
Bishops  and  Popes  of  Rome  (see  under 
Names),    claim    to   be   suc 
cessors    of    S.    Peter,     un 
disputed,  16 

Catalogues    of,    on    date  of  Linus's 
accession,     14  ;     to     Eleu- 
therius,   15 
Early,    buried  around   S.  Peter,    see 

Papal  Crypt 
Bithynia  and  Pontus,  57,  58,  62 

Christians  in  (see  also  Pliny's  letter), 

27,  32,  35"- 1,  45^  seg>, 
50,  7i,  75,  77,  103  &n.  2, 
no,  177 

Bliss,   instant,    after   Death,    Christian 
hope  of,  1 56 


"  Book  of  Jubilees,"  subject-matter  of, 
377,  378 

Borghesi,  Cardinal,  300,  re-interment 
by,  of  S.  Sebastian,  244 

Bosio,  — ,  pioneer  of  Catacomb  explor 
ation,  223-4 ;  present  at 
discovery  of  S.  Cecilia's 
body,  294  cb°w.  I,  297 

Bourges,  mention  at,  of  S.  Petronilla 
as  S.  Peter's  daughter,  278 

Brescia,  relics  of  S.  Hippolytus 
at,  255 

Brotherhood  character  of  early  Chris 
tianity,  38,  122-3,  270 

Builders,  of  Basilicas,  &c.,  injury  done 
by,  to  Catacombs,  250,  257 

Burial  customs,  Jewish,  Christian,  and   I 
Pagan,  4,  5,  131-3,  264 

Bury  St.  Edmunds,  cult  of  S.  Pet 
ronilla  in,  278 

CECILIAN  family,  the,  Christians  and 
martyrs  of,  burial-place  of,    j 
245,  291,  296-7  erw.  I 

Caecilius,  pagan  interlocutor  in  I 
Octavins  of  Minucius  Felix, 
146,  1 86 ;  arguments  of, 
source  of,  145  ;  contempt 
of,  for  Christians,  158;  on 
Christian  love,  119,  129 

C.  Aurelius,  Censor,  233 

Caius,  Bishop  or  Pope  of  Rome,  burial- 
place  of,  identified,  231  ; 
martyred  relationsof,  259;;.  I 

Caius,  Presbyter,  282 ;  on  the 
Memorise  of  the  Apostles 
in  Rome,  n 

Caligula,  Emperor,  and  the  Imperial 
cultus,  42  n.  I 

Callistus,  Bishop  or  Pope  of  Rome, 
and  martyr,  once  a  slave, 
136  n.  i 

Cemetery  or  Catacomb  of,  234, 236-7, 
239,  240,  242,  244-6, 
251,  261 

Inscription  of  Damasus  once  in, 
on  numbers  of  martyrs, 
215  d^w.  I 

Papal  burial-place  (</.£'.),  231, 
245-6,  273 

Callistus  group  of  Catacombs,  212 

Carthage,       Church      of       (see      also 
S.    Cyprian),   aid  from,   to 
other  Churches,  131 
Literary  support    from,    of    Petrine 

tradition,  10-11,  13 
Plague    at,   charity    of   S.    Cyprian 
and   his   flock   during,    123 
«.  I,  127 

"  Catacombas,  ad,"  sec  S.  Sebastian 

Catacombs  or  Cemeteries,  see  also 
under  Names  of  Saints, 
drY.,  and  under  Via,  and 
see  Inscriptions,  Itineraries, 
and  Translation 
Decorations  of,  deductions  from,  133, 

147,  219,  220,   221 

Exploration  of — 

beginning,  223  <Sr"  n.  I 

progress,  224  et  seq. 

results,     219,     220-1,    224,    225, 

230  et  seq. 
Workers,    see  Bosio,     De  Rossi, 

Marchi,  Marucchi 
Extent  and  content  of,   133  et  scq.t 

220,  233  et  seq. 
Jewish  burials  in,  4 
Literature  bearing  on,  209-14,  226-8 
Number  of,  De  Rossi  on,  232 
Origin  of,  in  general,  38 
Rediscovery  of,  223  6°  n.  I,  244 
Restorations   of,  by  Pope  Damasus, 

152  «.  I 
Teaching    in,    passim  ;     on    Death, 


Three  oldest,  266 
Tombs  in,  passim 
Uses  of,  133,  139,  220  et  alibi 

for  worship,  118,  253,  258 
Witness  of,  to  Acts  of  Martyrs,  8 1,  82 
to  Christ,  308,  310,  311,   316-20 

&°  nn. 

to    Early    Christian    history     and 

tradition,   105,    III-2,    133, 

163  n.  I,  209,  et  seq.  219-21 

Catalogues  of  Roman  Bishops  on  date 

of  Linus's  accession,  14 
Celestinus,  Pope,  burial-place  of,  272 
Cemeteries     (see      also     Catacombs), 

Christian  names  for,  155 
Cerinthian  heresy,  23  ;/.  I 
Chair  of  S.  Peter,  long  shown,  12 
Charity  among  Jews  in  Rome,  4 
Charlemagne,  278 
Christ,  Sayings  of,  366 

Teaching       of,       contrasted       with 

Talmudic,  366-8 

With    a   Kid,    Tertullian   on,    319; 

M.  Arnold's  verses  on,  320 

Witness  to,  of  the  Catacombs,  308, 

310,  311,  316-20  <§r««. 
Christian  Institutions,  by  Dean  Stanley, 
on    the    Good     Shepherd, 
318  &°n.  i,  319  n.  i 
Christian,   name  treated  as  crime,  39, 

189,  191 
Relatives  of  Emperors,  no,  112,  148, 

240,  241 

Religion,   powerful  factor  in  spread 
of,  102-3 



Christian — (contimted) 

Testimony  to  spread  of  Christianity, 
in  the  New  Testament  and 
after,  107-9 
Unity,  its  double  bond  of  Doctrine 

and  Love,  118-9 
Writers,     early,     on    Numbers     of 

Christians,  101,  208,  words 

cited,  103-6 
on  Persecutions,  &c.,  36,  37,  81, 82, 

163-5,  166-7,  177-91,  208; 

words  cited,  103-6 

Christianity,  see  also  Martyrs,  Persecu 
tions,  &c. 
Early,         connection        of,        with 

Judaism,  325 
Growth   of,    37    et   seq.,    107,    150 

&n.  I,  151 
Importance  to,  of  history  of  the  Jews 

after    the    last   Wars,    326 

et  seq. 
of  the    Talmud,    326,    327,    348, 

370  &n.  I 
Influence  on,  of  Rabbinical  studies, 

Menace    of,    to    Judaism    after   the 

Dispersion,  355 
Roman  view  of,  after  Jewish  War  of 

Extermination,  78,  79,  So 
Christians,  see   Pliny's   letter,   see  also 

Idol-worship,  Incense,  and 

Accused  of  burning  Rome,  27,  and 

burned  by  Nero,  28-9 
Classes  composing,  101,  110-12,  148, 

240,   241,   291,  296-70  6° 

n.  i,  299,  307-8 
Discriminated    from    Jews,    27,    30, 

92,  164,  341 

Expelled  from  Rome  by  Claudius,  25 
Fanatics  among,  97 
Guerdon  of  the  faith  of,  1 54  et  seq. 
Jewish  opposition  to,  in  Rome,  18 
Life    of,    in    early   days,  33-7,    101 

etseq.,  78-81,  1 40  et  seq. 
Numbers  of,  and  of  Martyrs  (q.v,), 

28, 46«.i,  53,215;  witnesses 

to,  82  6°n.  i,  101,  103-6 
Schools  of  teaching  among,  two,  101 
Christology  of  the  Catacombs,  220 ;  of 

S.  Paul,  23-4 

Chronicles,  Book  of,   Haggadic  expan 
sion  of,  378 
Church       calendars,       Martyrs       first 

mentioned  in,  208 
Church,    The,    in    the  Empire,    cited, 

see  under  Ramsay 
Church         of        the         Propaganda, 

S.      Hyacinthus's     remains 

in,  275 


Church    of    Rome    (see    also     Rome, 
Christians   in,    &c.),    early 
importance  of,  16,  17 
Cicero,    the    first    great    letter-writer, 
epistolary  style  of,  67,  71  ; 
fashion  set  by,  56-7,  58,  64  ; 
period    of,    56 ;    popularity 
of,  69 
on  the  Jews  in  Rome,  3 ;  on  Slaves,  1 34 

Circumcision  forbidden  to  Jews  in 
Rome,  335 

Civil  service,  Christians  in,  144,  145, 

Civil  War,  U.S.A.,  causes  of,  135  ».  I 

Claudian,  poems  of,  64 

Claudius,  Emperor,  235,  expulsion  by, 
of  Jews,  from  Rome,  8,  18, 
25 ;  S.  Peter  at  Rome 
during  reign  of,  u,  12,  14 

Claudius  Gothicus,  Emperor,  martyrs  in 
reign  of,  262,  276 

Clement  of  Alexandria,  179  ;  teaching 
of,  138;  writings  by,  see 
Picdagogus  ;  cited 'in  support 
of  Petrine  tradition,  10,  13; 
on  Christians  living  in  the 
world,  146 ;  on  Christians 
of  wealth,  in  frn.  1 

Clement  vin,  Pope,  and  the  find 
ing  of  S.  Cecilia's  body, 
294,  297 ;  and  S.  Peter's 
tomb,  282 

Clermont,  Sidonius  Apollinaris,  bishop 
of,  66 

Clitumnus  fountain,  Pliny's  description 
of,  60 

"Clivium  Cucumeris,  ad,"  Catacomb 
so  called,  275 

Codex  Sinaiticus,  The  Shepherd  of 
Hermas  included  in,  179-80 

Ccelian  Hill,  church  on,  Saints  buried 
in,  249 

"Ccemeterium  Majus,"  chief  interest 
of,  and  other  names  of, 
255,  257-8 ;  subterranean 
church  in,  258 

Ccemeterium  Ostrianum,  255,  257,  271 

"  Cognitiones,"  the,  43,  50 

Cologne,  relics  of  S.  Laurence  at,  255 

Colosseum,  the,  martyrdoms  in,  172 

Column  of  the  Passion,  at  S.  Zeno's 
chapel,  263 

Commentaries  on  the  Gospels,  £c. ,  by 
Theophilus  of  Antioch,  189 

Commodilla,  catacomb  of,  236,  238 

Commodus,  Emperor,  333  n.  2 

Apology   of    Athenagoras    addressed 

to,  188 

Attitude  of,    to  Christians,  97,  147, 
164,  208 



Communion  of  Saints,  early  Christian 

view  on,  307  et  seq. 
Communism    and    the    early   Church, 

120  6°«.  I,  130 
Constantine   the  Great  (see  also  Peace 

of  the  Church),  197,  369 
Basilicas  built  by,  to 
S.  Agnes,  256-7 
S.  Paul,  237,  238 
S.  Peter,  233,  237-8,  273,  279-80, 


Edict  of  Milan  issued  by,  150 
Memoria  built  by,  to  S.  Laurence,  250 
Corinth,    Epistles   to,    of  S.  Clement, 
S.    Ignatius,  S.  Paul,    and 
Pope     Soter,      see     under 
Literary    support    from,    of   Petrine 

tradition,  10,  13 
SS.  Peter  and  Paul  at,  10 
Cornelius,  Bishop  or  Pope,  of  Rome, 
and  martyr,   tomb  of,  243, 
discovery  of,  246 

on  Almsgiving  by  the  Roman  Church, 
105,  120;  on  the  number 
of  the  Christians  at  Rome, 
105,  106 

Council,  the,  of  Jerusalem,  8 
"Couples,"   the,    and   the   oral   Law, 

339,  340 

Crassus,  Consul,  56 
Creation  legends  in  "Book  of  Jubilees," 


Cremation,  not  practised  by  Jews,  4 
Crescentius,  martyr,  tomb  of,  266 
Cross  on  S.  Peter's  sarcophagus,  282-3 
Cruelty,  Pagan  and  Christian,  Rutilius 

on,  159 

Crusaders,  Itineraries  for,  210,  227 
Crypts,  famous,  see  Acilii  Glabriones 
Lucina,  Papal,  Platonia, 
Pmetextatus,  SS.  Cecilia, 
Januarius,  Priscilla,  Silanus, 

Age  of,  how  determined,  267 
Identification  of,  by  De  Rossi,  225, 

230  &> n.  I,  242 

Local  indications  of  presence  of,  228-9 
Cureton,     Canon,    and    the     Ignatian 

Epistles,  173  ;/.  I 
Cyprus,  Zealot  revolt  in,  334-5 
Cyrene,  Jews  of,  346,  revolt  of,  334-5 
Cyrinus,  martyr,  tomb  of,  243 

DAMASUS,  Pope,  263,  272,  301 

Epistle  of,  honouring  S.  Felicitas,  259 

Inscriptions  of,  aid  of,  to  Catacomb 

explorers,  229-30  ;  one  cited 

on     many    martyrs    buried 

together,  215  &n.  I 

Damasus — (continued) 

and  the  Martyrs  at  tomb  of  SS.  Chrys- 
anthus  and  Daria,  261 

Work  of,  in  the  Catacombs,  decora 
tion,  inscriptions,  and  epi 
taphs,  152  n.  i,  215  &>n.  I, 
229-30,  249,  252,  275, 
291-2,  296  ».  I,  297,  302, 


Daniel,    the    prophet,    and    Idol-wor 
ship,  149 
Book  of,  cited  on  Almsgiving,  121 

David,  King,  352 

Dead,  burying  of,  by  Early  Christians, 
120,  131-3,  264 

Death,    Christian   attitude    to,    154-5, 

309,  311 
Pagan  attitude  to,  59  «.  I,  83,  313-4 

De  Boissier,  — ,  on  Pliny's  letter,  46  ;  on 
the  School  for  Martyrdom, 
198  «.  i 

De  Broglie,  — ,  on  Toleration  shown 
by  early  Christian  teachers, 

De  Champagny,  — ,  on  Hadrian's  char 
acter,  77  n.  i  ;  on  number 
of  Jews  destroyed  in  the  last 
wars,  338  6° ;/.  2 

Decius  Aurelius,  Emperor,  persecutions 
under,  40,  97,  163  «.  2,  250, 
254,  martyrs  in,  236,  reason 
for,  194 

Decoration  of  Catacombs,  evidence 
from,  and  teaching  of,  225, 
267,  268,  269,  292,  301-2, 
if&ctstq.  ;  portraits  among, 
296  ;  value  of,  to  explorers, 

Deissmann,  Prof.,  on  the  Epistles,  as 
written  for  publication,  71 

Deities  associated  with  Rome,  87,  89 

De  Rossi,  G.,  Archaeological  work  of, 

209,  239,  246,  260,  261,  267 

Excavations  and  discoveries  by,   12, 

42,  224,  246,  247,  254,  266 

n.  I,  274 

Results,  225,  230  et  seq. 
Value  to,  of  Itineraries,  226  et  seq.t 

242,  243,  246,  247 
on  Acilius  Glabrio,  269;  on  the 
Acts  of  S.  Felicitas,  300  ; 
on  Coemeterium  Majus  as 
S.  Peter's  Baptistery,  257 ;  on 
Common  tombs  of  martyrs, 
215  «.  i  ;  on  Crypt  of 
Lucina,  245  ;  on  Epitaphs 
in  the  Catacombs,  310;  on 
the  "Ostrian"  Cemetery, 
25S,  257  ;  on  the  place  of 
martyrdom  of  S.  Chrysan- 



De  Rossi,  G. — (continued) 

thus,  260  ;  on  Pudens, 
265,  270;  on  S.  Cecilia's 
burial-place,  289,  291, 
292,  293  n.  i,  295-7,  298; 
on  scenes  of  S.  Peter's 
work,  12,  257,  267,  271  ; 
on  S.  Petronilla,  277  ;  on 
S.  Priscilla's  Catacomb, 
261-2 ;  on  the  Tomb  of 
Ampliatus,  241-2 ;  on  the 
Tombs  of  Sons  of  S.  Fe- 
licitas,  301-2 

Despots,  the  malady  of,  26,  82 

Deuteronomy,  Rabbinic  claim  for  last 
verses  of,  343,  364 

"  Devising  new  things,"  a  crime  under 
Domitian,  269 

Dialogue  with  the  few  Trypho,  by 
Justin  Martyr,  184,  on  Per 
secution,  185-6 

Diana,  worship  of,  195 

Didacht!,  the,  teachings  of,  138,  on 
Almsgiving,  121,  123,  on 
Assemblies,  108,  on  Hos 
pitality,  128,  on  Slaves  and 
Masters,  135 

Dill,  Prof.,  cited  on  Roman  wish  for 
posthumous  remembrance, 

59  «•  i 

Diocletian,  Emperor,  75 
Baths  of,  302 
Christian  relations  of,  148 
Christians  at  Court  of,  147 
Persecutions    under,    97,    163    ;;.  2, 

236,  244,  246,  249,  266 
Martyrs  in,    234,   239,    259  «.  I, 
260,    276 ;    official    records 
of  Roman  martyrdoms  de 
stroyed  in  his  reign,  225 
Protracted,   light  on,  from   Cata 
combs,  231 

Reasons  for,  42  &  n.  I,  194 
Severity  of,  reaction  after,  151 
Diognetus,  Letter  to,byunknown  writer, 
on  Persecution,  177-8,  sug 
gested  date,  1 78  &  n.  I 
Dion  Cassius,  75,  269,  on  Domitian's 
executions,  41  ;  on  the  last 
wars  of  the  jews,  328  n.  I  ; 
on    Nerva's    treatment    of 
Christians,  171 

Dionysius,  Bishop  of  Alexandria,  on 
Christians  at  Court,  147  ; 
on  Roman  generosity  to 
other  Churches,  131 
Dionysius  of  Corinth,  cited  on  Alms  to 
other  Churches  from  Rome, 
130-1  ;  in  support  of  Petrine 
tradition,  10,  13 

Dionysius,  Pope,  martyr,  tomb  of,  243 
Docetic  teaching,  heresy  of,  23  n.  I 
"Domine    quo    vadis,"   Church,    and 

legend  of,  239 
Domitian,    Emperor,    Arch    of   Titus 

finished  by,  333  n.  I 
Christian  relatives  of,  1 10,  112;  burial- 
place  of,  240,  241 
Emperor  worship  enforced  by,  170 
Fate  of,  42  &n.  2,  43,  48,  171 
Persecutions    under,    32,    171,    172, 
173,    174,    207,   255,   269  ; 
reasons  for,  and  severity  of, 
40-2,  194 
Triumph  of,  333 
Domitilla,  catacomb  of,  261 

Age,  grandeur,  and  size  of,  240,  266 

Basilica  in,  278 

Builder  of,  112 

Discovery   of,    230,    and   discoveries 

in,  239,  240-2 
Flavian  tombs  in,  277 
S.  Petronilla  buried  in,  279 
Domitilla,   two   Princesses  so   named, 
martyred  by  Domitian,  41, 

Doulcet,  — ,  ref.  to,  300 
Dove,  in  Christian  symbolism,  310 
Drei,   Benedetto,  plan    by,  of  Vatican 

Cemetery  (ancient),  287-8 
Dryden,  John,  poem  by  on  S.  Cecilia, 

294  ;/.  I 

Duchesne,  — ,  on  Christianity  as  equiva 
lent  to  Martyrdom,  37  ;  on 
The  Shepherd  of  Hermas, 
179  6°w.  i,  181  ;  on 
S.  Cecilia's  burial-places, 
293  n.  i  ;  term  used  by,  for 
Church  of  Rome,  16  6°».  I 

EADBURG,  Queen,  279 

Early   Christian    writers   and    teaching 

on  Slavery,  135,  136-7 
Ebert  and  others  on  relative  dates  of 

Tertullian     and     Minucius 

Felix,  1 86 
Edict    against     Christians     issued     by 

Nero,  32,  54 
of  Milan,  150 
Education,    difficulties    concerning,    of 

Early  Christians,  141-2 
figlise,  L\  Chrttienne,  ref.  by  Renan, 

on  Hermas's  Shepherd,  180 
EgKse,  L',  et  ?  Empire  Remain,  by  Do 

Broglie,  on  early  Christian 

toleration,  142-3 
Egypt,  see  Alexandria 
Einsiedeln,    Itinerary    of,   cited,    212 ; 

date,  227 
"  Syllogoe  "  at,  230 



Elders  and  Judges,  and  the  Law,  339, 


Elements  of  the  Faith ,  by  Theophilus 
of  Antioch,  189 

Eleutherius,  Bishop  or  Pope  of  Rome, 
burial-place  of,  287 ;  list  of 
predecessors  of,  15 

Elisha,  prophet,  on  Ceremonial  idol 
atry,  149 

Emblems  used  in  the  Catacombs,  310 
et  alibi 

Emperor- worship,  42  er=«.  I,  169,  170, 
181,  194,  195 

England,  crusade  of,  against  Slavery, 
Lecky  on,  135  n.  I 

Ephesians,  Epistles  to,  see  Epistles 

Ephesus,   the  "highway   of  martyrs," 


Epistles    or    Letters,    anonymous,   see 
Diognetus,  Hebrews,  Poly- 
Apostolic,    73-4,     on     Persecution, 

165,  166-7 

of  New  Testament  writers,  70-2 
Catholic,  71,  72 
Pastoral,  72 

Patristic,  on  Persecution,  165,  170-6 
by    Various   writers,    Christian    and 
Pagan  ;  see  also  S.  Cyprian 
Barnabas,  74 

on  Assemblies,  108  ;  on  Christ's 

atonement,  116-7 
tradition  on,  73 
Cicero,    56-7,    58,    64,    67,    69, 

Dionysius  of  Corinth  to  the  Roman 

Church,  130-1 
Fronto,  to  M.  Aurelius,  63-4  er5  n.  I, 

85,  86-7 
Horace,  69  n.  I 
Julian,  Emperor,  to  Arsacius,  123 

n.  I,  128,  131 
Ovid,  69  «.  I 

Pliny  the  younger  (g.v.),  57,  59-62 
Polycarp,  73,  125 
S.  Clement  of  Rome, 
to  the  Corinthians,  73 

First,    37,    104  &°  n.  2,  126, 

128,   165,   170-2 ;    teaching 

of,    138 ;    cited  in   support 

of  Petrine  tradition,  9 

Second,   so  called,    104   n.  2, 

121  &*n.  I 
S.  Ignatius  of  Antioch,  73 

Authenticity     of,      165,     172-3 

&°n.  1 

to  Corinth,  108,  172-6 
to  Ephesus,  173 
to  Magnesians,  174 
to  Poly  carp,  108 

Epistles  or  Letters — (continued) 

S.  Ignatius  of  Antioch — (continued] 
to  Rome,  9,  37,  154,  173,  174-5, 

199,  204-5 
to  Tralles,  173 

S.  James,   meant  for  publication, 
71  ;  on  Assemblies,  107  ;  on 
wealthy  Christians,  1 10  ;  on 
"  pure  religion,"  126 
S.  John, 

First,    meant    for     publication, 

71,  72 

Third,  on  Hospitality,  129 
S.  Jude,  meant  for  publication,  71, 


S.  Paul,  two  classes  of,  70-2 
to  Colossians,  23-4,  70 
to  Corinthians,  21 

First,    134-5  ;    Haggadic   in 
fluence  in,  379 
Second,  71 
to    Ephesians,    nature    of,    23, 


to  Galatians,  21,  135,  379 
to  Philemon,  71,  134 
to  Philippians,  23,  70,  154 
to  Romans,   17,  19  &  n.  I,  21, 
24,   107,    129 ;  Linus  men 
tioned  in,  283 
to  Thessalonians,  21 
to  Timothy,  First  and  Second, 

72,  379 

to  Titus,  72,  135 
on    the    Church  at   Jerusalem, 
and       its      poverty,      120 

»•  i,  130 

S.  Paulinus  of  Nola   to  Sulpicius 
Severus,  on  his^lave,  136-7 
S.  Peter,  First,  71,  129,  date  and 
place  of  writing,  8  &°».  I, 
16,  18,  19,    51,    107,    135, 
165,     166    n.  i,     167;     to 
whom  addressed,  107 
Seneca,  57,  69,  71  ;  to  Lucilius,  29 
Sidonius  Apollinaris,  64,  66-7 
Soter,  to  Corinth,  104 
Theophilus  of  Antioch,   to  Auto- 

lycus,  108-9,  ^9 

Epitaphs  (set  also  Inscriptions)  in  the 

Catacombs,    Characteristics 

of,  Christian,  154-5,  307-9  ; 

Pagan,  154-5,  313-4 

Equality     without     democracy    among 

Early  Christians,  38 
Eschatologic  trend  of  the  Haggadah, 


Esquiline  Hill,  church  on,  262 
Essenes,  the,  330 

Europe,     Christian    congregations    in 
mid -second  century,  36 



Eusebian  catalogue  of  Roman  Bishops, 

value     of,     in    support     oi 

Petrine  tradition,  14,  15, 

Armenian       version        of        above, 

ib.  ib. 

Eusebius,  Bishop  or  Pope  of  Rome, 
128,  147,  187-8,  attempted 
exculpation  by,  of  Trajan, 
49  ;  burial-place  of,  243, 
indentified,  243 

cited  in  support  of  Petrine  tradition, 
10,  H-I2,  14;  on  Alms 
giving,  120,  127  ;  on  high 
offices  filled  by  Christians, 
149  ;  on  the  Plague,  and 
on  Christian  charity,  127  ; 
on  Pliny's  correspondence 
with  Trajan,  45  ;  on  Theo- 
philus  of  Antioch,  189 

Evander,  home  of,  87 

EvangileS)  Les,  by  Renan,  cited  on 
Pliny's  letter,  46  n.  I  ;  on 
Trajan  as  persecutor,  49 

Evaristus,  Bishop  or  Pope  of  Rome, 
burial-place  of,  287 

Exhortatio  ad  Alar  ty  rum,  by  Origen, 

Exile  of  the  Jews,  in  Babylonia, 

Effect   of,   on   their   character,   348, 

36i,  371 
Return  from, 

Rise  of  the  Scribes  on,  343,  356 
Talmud,  origin  of,  coeval  with,  348 
Ezra,  342,  343 

FABIUS,  Bishop  of  Antioch,  105 
Faith,  in  Early  Christian  Church,  39 
Fame,    posthumous,    Roman    yearning 

for,  59  &*  n.  i,  65 
Family  life,  early  Christian  difficulties 

in,  140-1 
Fasting,    early    Church,    124   &n.  I  ; 

Rigourist  teaching  on,  153 
Filocalus,  Furius  Dionysius,  inscripti